Applied in transforming business organisations since the 1980s, Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a method that is suitable for bringing change in communities as well, as IISD shows in their work with local communities in rural India. The idea of AI is to move away from a focus on problems to a focus on potentials and assets. Practitioners of AI believe this approach is true to human nature because it integrates different ways of knowing, allows room for emotional response as well as intellectual analysis and provides space for imagination as well as rational thought.
IISD chose to test this method in a large number of rural communities in India after seeing traditional methods fail to sustain community participation after implementing organisations withdrew. They describe it as a “co-operative search for the strengths, passions and life-giving forces that are found within every system—those factors that hold the potential for inspired, positive change.”
The appreciative approach involves collaborative inquiry, based on interviews and affirmative questioning, to collect and celebrate the good stories of a community. Location, group size and timing were found to be crucial in creating the right atmosphere. Furthermore, opening exercises such as common singing, personal introductions and village walks helped to open people up to the process.
The ultimate aim is to create a positive story, using open questions and analysing the answers. This first stage of discovery is then followed by dreaming, design and delivery stages. Read more about these stages here.
Information and pictures sourced from http://www.iisd.org/ai | report “the positive path: using appreciative inquiry in rural communities in India” | http://digitalmedia.worldbank.org/tenthings/sar/india/en/7-ind.htm | http://www.malteser-international.org/ | Pictures used do not show the IISD projects | All rights reserved.