What is AI?

Appreciative Inquiry is a collaborative and highly participative approach to organisation and community development. It identifies and enhances the ‘life-giving forces’ that are present when a team, organisation, or business is working at its best, to serve whatever is its purpose and role.

AI was first developed by David Cooperrider in the late 1980s at Case Western University, USA, and is now used all over the world. Cooperrider was supported by Jane Magruder Watkins in developing AI as a practical application.

One of AI’s great advantages is that it’s a change process focusing on strengths – rather than weaknesses. It encourages active and effective staff and community participation – the resulting strategies are based on reality, and ‘owned’ by the participants, so are much more likely to be deliverable.

You can find out more about how AI works on our AI in practice page.

Internationally, AI has been used in a variety of organisations:

  • Fairmount Minerals uses AI to support its whole-system approach to embed sustainability
  • Green Mountain Coffee Roasters used AI extensively ‘to increase GMCR’s positive world benefit through phenomenal sustainable growth’. (CEO Robert Stiller donated $10million to fund the new Champlain College’s David L. Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry)
  • The US Navy used AI to create its leadership strategy, and its supply chain across the service
  • The City of Cleveland used AI to plan and create its strategic, economic and social future, using large-scale community summits
  • The city of Calgary used AI to form its Cultural Transformation Project in 2013
  • Imagine Chicago launched AI as a process for community development, which has been replicated in Imagine Nepal, Imagine Singapore and Imagine St Helens, amongst others…


In the UK, Appreciating People has worked with:

  • British Red Cross, using AI to support staff and volunteer engagement
  • The West Midlands Academic Health Science Network – host of The West Midlands Patient Safety Collaborative – is using Appreciative Inquiry to improve safety and continually reduce avoidable harm
  • Birmingham Children’s Hospital is using AI to support its Learning from Excellence programme
  • Liverpool Vision uses Appreciative Inquiry to facilitate business conversations with the city’s SME sector
  • Barnardos
  • National churches including United Reformed Church, Congregational Federation, Methodists and Quakers


Click here to see how AI can help your organisation, business or community group.



This video, by our colleague Jackie Kelm, tells you a bit more about Appreciative Inquiry.




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