Using Appreciative Inquiry in Evaluation

Using Appreciative Inquiry in Evaluation

Using Appreciative Inquiry in Evaluation

Using Appreciative Inquiry in Evaluation


This issue explores the potential role of Appreciative Inquiry, a process that searches for what is best in people and organizations, in evaluation. Contributors examine Appreciative Inquiry's approach and impact on the use of evaluation processes and findings, the contextual factors or conditions that make its use in evaluation appropriate, and the challenges of using it.

Chapters also provide an overview of Appreciative Inquiry and how it fits within the landscape of evaluation practice, four case studies, and commentary and critique of specific points in this issue, as well as broader consideration of the possibilities that Appreciative Inquiry offers to evaluation practice.

By offering evaluators an approach and method for discovering and building on the positive aspects of a program, Appreciative Inquiry is an valuable resource for evaluators. This issue is an indispensable guide to that resource.


Appreciative inquiry is an approach to seeking what is
right in an organization in order to create a better future
for it. How and when it might be used in evaluation
practice is explored in this chapter.

Anne T. Coghlan, Hallie Preskill, Tessie Tzavaras Catsambas

Appreciative Inquiry is a relatively new asset-based approach from the field of organizational development that has been garnering attention for its successful application in facilitating organizational change. Appreciative Inquiry is a process that inquires into, identifies, and further develops the best of what is in organizations in order to create a better future. A fundamental premise is that [organizations move toward what they study] (Cooperrider, Whitney, and Stavros, 2003, p. 29).

A wide range of approaches, including Total Quality Management, Continuous Quality Improvement, the Balanced Score Card, Future Search, Open Space, and Appreciative Inquiry, have led change management efforts. The strategies outlined in these approaches vary; they include, among others, using measurement and evidence-based decisions for quality improvement, employing mediation and negotiation for the discovery of common ground, and following processes that aim to build organizational assets. While organizational development methods differ greatly depending on the purpose of the intervention and the organization's population and context, many approaches tend to focus on identifying specific problems, analyzing possible causes and solutions to these problems, and devising a plan to resolve or eliminate the problems.

Appreciative Inquiry looks at organizational issues, challenges, and concerns in a significantly different way. Instead of focusing on problems, organizational members first discover what is working particularly well in their organization. Then, instead of analyzing possible causes and solutions, they envision what it might be like if [the best of what is] occurred more . . .

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