Appreciative Inquiry: Design

I have been thinking through how to approach conversations about climate change and its impacts using Appreciative Inquiry – with the ultimate goal of developing meaningful action plans that resonate across the globe. Big Hairy Audacious Goal[1], I know.

In the Definition phase of Appreciative Inquiry, we establish a shared focus. For me in this context, the focus is global access to a ‘healthy earth’.

In the Discovery phase we ask questions to understand, from a positive vantage, what global access to a ‘healthy earth’ has “looked and felt like by activating vivid memories of experiencing it”[2]. This thinking immediately takes me back to childhood memories of running through fields of black-eyed susans, my steps stirring a kaleidoscope of monarchs; of hiking in the rain through a deeply forested canvas as bright orange salamanders scamper across my path; of lounging in clear cool streams, crawdads nipping at my toes. What comes to mind when you consider a ‘healthy earth’?

In the Dream phase we imagine a future state, a future earth, that embodies our dreams and visions.

This brings us to the Design phase, where we “connect ‘what is’ with ‘what might be’ through the concept of social architecture – those things … necessary for implementing the desired future state.”[3] This is where is gets particularly difficult, in my experience. The ‘how to’ is complex, not at all straightforward. It requires what many consider to be pain - giving up things, behaviors, and actions that have come to be considered important, perhaps even critical, to our daily existence. How do we – CAN WE – reframe the way in which we think about fulfillment, about what is essential in our lives? Is it possible to adjust individual thinking, community thinking, global thinking to consider a common future good?


In the Next Issue

In the next few posts, we will continue to explore how Appreciative Inquiry might be a vital component for shifting how, when, why, and where energy is used by diving more deeply into the Five D’s. I would love to hear from others!

[1] James C. Collins, Porras, J. I., Building Your Company Vision, Harvard Business Review, Sep-Oct 1996, page 9.

[2] Douglas Reid, Appreciative Inquiry, page 5,

[3] Ibid. Page 6.


About This Blog

We are on the brink of an evaluation renaissance. Smart grids, smart meters, smart buildings, and smart data are prominent themes in the industry lexicon. Smarter evaluation and research must follow. To explore this evaluation renaissance, I am looking both inside and outside the evaluation community in a search for fresh ideas, new methods, and novel twists on old methods. I am looking to others for their thoughts and experiences for advancing the evaluation and research practice.

So, please…stay tuned, engage, and always, always question. Let’s get smarter together.

Back to Blog