Appreciative Inquiry (AI) can be constructed as an approach towards change and development that can be consistent with (relational) constructionism. Cooperrider and Srivastva (1987) originally developed AI as a complement to conventional forms of action research. In their view - and compared with conventional forms of action research - AI takes a more positive stance, is more collaborative and participative and is more capable of generating innovative change. AI can be said to mean different things. The literatures contain many definitions and emphases. Some accounts strongly link AI to social or relational constructionism. Below you can find a broad outline of the general approach to AI. After this AI is related to the relational constructionist thought style that is taken on this website.
The four-D cycle of AI
The general approach to AI - which ideally involves the whole organization - if often described in terms of an ongoing four D-cycle. The latter is organised around an affirmative topic, that is, something that an organization or community wants to develop, learn about or enhance their way of doing business. Below a short description of these four phases can be found. This can be seen as a broad and abstract outline of the AI process, which has no firm rules. Each process emerges in a different way.
1. Discovering. In this first phase it is about discovering 'the best of what is'. The central aim of this phase is to find out and appreciate what gives life and energy to people, their work and their organization.
2. Dreaming. The second D stands for dreaming about 'what might be'. In this phase the aim is to dream or envision how the organization ideally might look in the anticipated future. The information from the discovery phase is used as a platform for this, so that the vision of the future organization is related to, or grounded in, the organization's potential.
3. Designing. The aim of the third phase is to create or design organizational structures, processes and relationships that support the dream as articulated in the previous phase.
4. Destiny. During the last phase people aim at sustaining the developments and innovations of the inquiry process and to nurture a collective sense of destiny. Here the AI process can start anew, as this new phase leads to new discoveries of community strengths.