This post is part 2 of 4 in the series Defining Appre­cia­tive Inquiry.

Purpose and outcomes

To enable full-voice appre­cia­tive partic­i­pa­tion that taps the organization’s posi­tive change core and inspires collab­o­ra­tive action that serves the whole system

Number of participants

20–2,000 involved in inter­views, large-scale meet­ings and collab­o­ra­tive actions

Types of participants

Internal and external stake­holders — all co-creators — those who hold images and tell stories about the orga­ni­za­tion

Typical duration

  • Prepa­ra­tion: work begins with the first ques­tion asked
  • Conduct method: 1 day to many months in noncon­fer­ence design; AI Summit: 4–6 days
  • Total tran­si­tion: 3 months to 1 year

When to use

  • To create a posi­tive revo­lu­tion
  • To enhance strategic coop­er­a­tion over­coming conflict, compe­ti­tion
  • To catalyze whole-system culture change
  • To facil­i­tate high-partic­i­pa­tion plan­ning
  • To mobi­lize global orga­ni­za­tion design and devel­op­ment
  • To inte­grate multiple change initia­tives into a focused whole-system effort
  • To support large-scale mergers and acqui­si­tions

When not to use

  • What you are doing already is getting the results you desire
  • Commit­ment to a posi­tive approach to change is lacking

Impact on cultural assumptions

Funda­mental shift occurs toward coop­er­a­tion, equality of voice, high partic­i­pa­tion, a posi­tive revo­lu­tion, inquiry and impro­vi­sa­tional learning as daily prac­tices, appre­cia­tive lead­er­ship, and focus on life-giving forces — social, finan­cial and ecolog­ical


David Coop­er­rider, Suresh Srivastva and colleagues at Case Western Reserve Univer­sity and the Taos Insti­tute. Created in 1987

Historical context

Theory: Social construc­tion, antic­i­pa­tory imagery theory, narra­tive theory
Prag­matics: Post­modern shifts in global orga­nizing, deficit models of change that simply do not serve the greater good

Reprinted with permis­sion from Peggy Holman and Tom Devane, The Change Hand­book: Group methods for shaping the future. San Fran­cisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.