This week’s reading was about Appreciative Inquiry–something I’ve never heard of before, yet I have…
Being new to the idea of formal evaluation methods, I never really considered the overall philosophy or approach to an evaluation. I assumed that since there were such specific guidelines to the methodology of evaluations, I equated the procedure to the systematic process of checking items off of a checklist.
But after reading Reframing Evaluations Through Appreciative Inquiry, I realized that there are so many other dimensions to performaing an evaluation–and this concept, especially, seemed particularly useful. And while the idea of approaching an evaluation with a positive frame of mind and emphasising past successes and idealized hopes for the future may seem obvious, it clearly is not–as the authors contend.
As the authors describe, too often evaluations are approached from the perspective of identifying problems to be solved–which has its own merits, but as the authors point out, emphasizing the problems automatically puts a more negative spin on the evaluation itself. The idea behind Appreciative Inquiry is to approach the evaluation with a positive slant, by identifying past successes and creating a wishlist for the future. And through this technique, problems or potential improvements are also identified–as are the solutions.
And that’s what I mean by, I’ve heard this idea before. The idea of emphasizing the positive instead of the negative is not a new idea–it’s the cornerstone of self-improvement and self-help. But as applied to an evaluation, I think the idea is groundbreaking.
As a personal preference, I liked using the four “I”s to desribe the phases–as opposed to the four “D”s. I thought that Inquire, Imagine, Innovate, and Implement sounded more practical than Discovery, Dream, Design, and Destiny. I think the four “D”s sound a little more fanciful–which might reduce the credibility of the concept to the more business-minded.
It may sound trite, but after reading this week’s chapters, I found myself feeling motivated to try to approach problem-solving in general in a more positive way.