Appreciative Inquiry

Adam, Ashley, Matt and I have been reading Krista Tippett’s book Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living. Tippett includes part of an interview with the social venture entrepreneur, Jacqueline Novogratz, who works in some of the poorest places in the world. Wherever Novogratz goes, she asks this question to call forth inner abundance: “what are you doing when you feel most beautiful?” (p. 78 of Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living.)

I have been thinking about asking neighbors this question. How might they respond? How would I respond if asked this question? Since our visit with Sarah Arthurs at Prairie Sky Cohousing Cooperative in Calgary, Alberta, I realize that this question is an example of Appreciative Inquiry.

When Matt and I met with Sarah Arthurs, she mentioned the term Appreciative Inquiry (AI) and suggested that we research Bliss Browne and her work. In my research I found this quote from Browne, “the underlying assumption of appreciative inquiry is that people and organizations are full of assets, capabilities, resources, and strengths that can be located, affirmed, leveraged and encouraged” (Imagine Chicago). When I read this statement, the connection between Asset-Based Community Development and Appreciative Inquiry was clear: like ABCD, AI assumes that there is good in a neighbor... and a neighborhood. This good can be revealed in story. According to John Steinbach, “AI is intentional inquiry and directed conversation and story-telling that leads to a place of possibility. Possibility is fresh, new, and sacred. The story is the genesis of all that is human. Societies are stories, as are companies, schools, cities, families and individuals [and neighborhoods]. There are bricks and mortar and flesh and bones, but all of it comes from a story”  (Contribution to the AI Listserve, July 2005). We are contemplating what this means for SoCe Life and wondering how to be more intentional about not only Appreciative Inquiry, but also telling the stories of our neighborhood.