Shifting from What’s Wrong to What’s Strong: An Appreciative Inquiry Approach

Visual created by Kat Haugh

I’m interested; how can I apply the AI approach?

AI asks questions that allow us to reframe challenges as opportunities and embrace storytelling, play, and imagination. To integrate an AI lens in your work, we recommend that you start by considering these three principles:

  1. Focus on positivity: This one is a given! An AI framework focuses on what worked best rather than what did not work. For example, ask your colleagues, “what are you most proud of?”
  2. Share to gain perspective: Sharing stories that emerge from positive inquiry can build appreciation and an understanding of the potential we could harness.
  3. Don’t be afraid to dream big: Don’t limit yourself by thinking about program design and implementation constraints. Imagine your ideal future.
  1. Define — What is our desired outcome? In this step, it is essential to set the tone and purpose of the project by focusing on generative topics and discussing what value this project could bring. When put into action, this may look like a scoping exercise.
  2. Discover — What are our strengths? Discovery is a dialogue that is focused on strengths. This step allows participants to brainstorm assets and best practices.
  3. Dream — What would work in the future? Build upon the strengths identified in step two by imagining new possibilities and envisaging an ideal future. The output from this step might be a vision and strategic plan.
  4. Design — What actions can we take to make it happen? This step focuses on achieving the story and vision developed in the discover and dream steps. In this step, you will design your implementation approach.
  5. Deploy — Taking Action! The final step focuses on how we will deliver the design. The focus of this step is to create an action plan and decide on roles and responsibilities.

The AI approach in Action: Designing the Feed the Future Innovation Lab Community of Practice on Cross-Cutting Themes

Under the USAID’s Innovative Design Services (IDS) contract, the Global Knowledge Initiative(GKI) supports USAID’s Bureau for Resilience and Food Security to establish and facilitate the Feed the Future Innovation Lab Community of Practice (CoP) on Cross-Cutting Themes. The CoP aims to be a forum that facilitates shared learning around effectively integrating the consideration of cross-cutting themes — specifically gender and local capacity development — into agriculture research. Throughout the co-creation and implementation of this CoP, GKI is utilizing principles of AI to create a CoP that focuses on the unique and positive attributes of the Innovation Labs.

Visual created by Kat Haugh
  • The Innovation Labs (ILs) that designed their projects considering local empowerment and sustainability were able to adapt to the travel restrictions imposed by COVID-19 much easier than the labs that did not because they already had strong relationships and supporting processes.
  • Innovation Labs must engage local partners when discussing the integration of gender into agricultural research because gender is an integral part of a culture. The CoP network map further emphasized this point by identifying more CoP champions for gender integration in partner countries than those in the US.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Global Knowledge Initiative

Global Knowledge Initiative


Our mission is to activate collaborative networks globally to deliver innovative solutions that build more resilient systems.