David Cooperrider and Diana Whitney define Appreciative Inquiry in the following way:
Appreciative Inquiry is about the coevolutionary search for the best in people, their organizations, and the relevant world around them. In its broadest focus, it involves systematic discovery of what gives “life” to a living system when it is most alive, most effective, and most constructively capable in economic, ecological, and human terms. AI involves, in a central way, the art and practice of asking questions that strengthen a system’s capacity to apprehend, anticipate, and heighten positive potential. It centrally involves the mobilization of inquiry through the crafting of the “unconditional positive question” often-involving hundreds or sometimes thousands of people. In AI the arduous task of intervention gives way to the speed of imagination and innovation; instead of negation, criticism, and spiraling diagnosis, there is discovery, dream, and design…Link the energy of this core directly to any change agenda and changes never thought possible are suddenly and democratically mobilized.
-A Positive Revolution in Change: Appreciative Inquiry, by David L. Cooperrider and Diana Whitney
While Appreciative Inquiry has traditionally been used for decision-making and strategic change within companies or organizations, I have been applying Appreciative Inquiry methods as part of the Dreams Assessment process. AI techniques are particularly useful in challenging organizational settings fraught with disagreement, apathy, disenfranchisement, disconnection, and/or mistrust. To see how I have been applying AI techniques in an international development setting, visit the Dreams Assessment page in My Portfolio.