IAF Methods

Appreciative Inquiry (AI)

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AI is a 5-step cycle process, a methodology rather than a method, a generative process model for approaching change at all levels within a system, from one-on-one coaching, to team building, to system-wide change. Grounded in positive psychology and strengths focus. Well researched and tested. Highly participatory. Generates high energy and synergy.

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"AI is about the search for the best in people, their organizations, and the strengths-filled, opportunity-rich world around them. AI is a fundamental shift in the overall perspective taken throughout the entire change process to ‘see’ the wholeness of the human system and to “inquire” into that system’s strengths, possibilities, and successes."

Excerpt from: Stavros, Jacqueline, Godwin, Lindsey, & Cooperrider, David. (2015). Appreciative Inquiry: Organization Development and the Strengths Revolution. In Practicing Organization Development: A guide to leading change and transformation (4th Edition), William Rothwell, Roland Sullivan, and Jacqueline Stavros (Eds). Wil


You will be able to upload attachments once after you create the method.


  • Worksheets containing inquiry questions
  • flipchart, creative tools and processes to represent group ideas and creations
  • Adaptable to the facilitator’s style and personality



This method requires some understanding of the AI process and philosophy. The process works best when each step given ample time to for participation and completion. The pre-workshop groundwork is very important to identifying the focus or defining the topic. This is best arrived at through conversations with a range of stakeholders and reaching consensus on the specific focus.

1. Define

What is the topic of inquiry? – It is important to define the overall focus of the inquiry (what the system wants more of). Definition is used to clarify the area of work to be considered. Definition defines the project’s purpose, content, and what needs to be achieved. In this phase, the guiding question is, “What generative topic do we want to focus on together?”

The facilitator will need to prepare the worksheets and any other processes/materials to be used to record and display responses for each of the cycle steps.

Prepare to create and sustain an atmosphere that focuses on the positive, strengths and creativity.


Encourage participants to keep language and focus positive. Guide reframing, encourage big thinking. Be clear on the purpose and outcome for each step.

2. Discover

Appreciating the best of ‘what is’ – Discovery is based on a dialogue, as a way of finding ‘what works’. It rediscovers and remembers the organization or community’s successes, strengths and periods of excellence.

3. Dream

Imagining ‘what could be’ – Imagining uses past achievements and successes identified in the discovery phase to imagine new possibilities and envisage a preferred future. It allows people to identify their dreams for a community or organization; having discovered ‘what is best’. They have the chance to project it into their wishes, hopes and aspirations for the future

4. Design

Determining ‘what should be’ – Design brings together the stories from discovery with the imagination and creativity from dream. Bringing the ‘best of what is’ together with ‘what might be’, to create ‘what should be – the ideal’.

5. Deliver/Destiny

Creating ‘what will be’ – The fifth stage in the 5Ds process identifies how the design is delivered, and how it’s embedded into groups, communities and organizations.

(sourced from AI Commons)


Possible pitfalls: Too many project/action ideas and failure to pin the big ideas down to realistic actions. Keep encouraging to be SMART.

Facilitator prepares report on the process and outcomes for client. Meeting(s) with client for on discussion and recommendations. Possibly report back to meeting of all participants.

Ideally, the facilitator will have periodic follow-up, however, within the process, monitoring and evaluation systems should be built in so the individual or organization has internal drivers for sustainability. The AI Cycle embraces periodic revisiting of what was created and building on the progress made or the achievements.


Source: David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva in 1980

Methodology write up by: Barbara King, CPF

History of Development:

Co-founded by David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastava in 1980 in the doctoral program in Organizational Behaviour at Case Western University.

AI Commons Champlain

Source for all things related to AI from the originators


See also http://appreciativeinquiry.case.edu/intro/timeline.cfm


Appreciative Inquiry: A Conversation with Professor David Cooperrider one of the originators (3.53)


John Hayes of Aahus University explanation (3.53)


Appreciative Inquiry (3.45)


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