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The Basics of Appreciative Inquiry 

Appreciative Inquiry is both a  philosophy  and a  strategy .  
The Philosophy

 Appreciative Inquiry: The Philosophy 

The philosophy of appreciative inquiry focuses on what people value about their life together. Through listening, learning and innovating AI helps people to discover and build on what is working well. The philosophy behind the AI strategy helps congregations move through change with minimal resistance by:

∙ Protecting the best of what the congregation values.

∙ Discovering the language and stories of the congregation.

∙ Building on the strengths of the congregation.

∙ Honoring relationships within the congregation.

∙ Involving EVERYONE.  


Appreciative inquiry helps congregations identify the words and stories they use to talk about their life together. The primary principle behind appreciative inquiry is social constructionism. This theory understands the power words have to create reality. People say all kinds of things, but some of what they say becomes the story they tell about their congregation.  If they emphasize the words that speak about decline, they feel hopeless, but if they accentuate the stories of love and care, they feel hopeful. 


Appreciative inquiry does not ignore problems. Instead it helps participants imagine what the flip side of the problem might be.  For example: If I complain about the old, red carpet in the sanctuary, it’s because I can see how much better everything would look if the carpet were new and blue. If I couldn’t see how it could be better, then I wouldn’t consider the current carpet a problem. Appreciative inquiry motivates change by focusing on the vision of how things could be better, rather than on the problem with the old.  Appreciative inquiry recognizes that something is described as a problem because it is being compared to a vision of how it could be better.

The Strategy

 Appreciative Inquiry: The Strategy 

The appreciative inquiry strategy moves through the four stages of Initiate, Inquire, Imagine and Innovate.  In two dimensions its illustrated as a circle, but in three dimensional reality its a helix with one stage leading upward toward the next. 


In most of the Living the Resurrection workshops participants will move through all four stages. The one day workshops abbreviate each of the stages so that participants can get a sense of the complete process by the end of the workshopThe eighteen-month process moves through the full cycle twice, in the first cycle the focus is on the congregation, the second time through guides the congregation as it builds mutual relationships with its neighbors. 

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