Appreciative Inquiry in New Zealand: Practitioner Perspectives
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Commerce
Appreciative Inquiry (AI) has gained increasing popularity as a form of organisation development and action research worldwide, yet little research has been published outside of the USA and Canada. This thesis explores the application and evaluation of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) in the unique context of New Zealand through the perspectives of facilitators of AI. I conducted semi-structured, in-depth interviews with nine experienced AI facilitators in order to understand their perspectives on how AI works, under which circumstances it is most effective and how they evaluate AI. Facilitators tend to come from backgrounds that embrace humanistic values, a premise shared by AI. Participants in this study regard the underlying principles of AI as central, whereas they consider concrete processes, such as the 4D-cycle, to be useful but not essential. Facilitators are very concerned about the appropriate use of AI and clearly identified circumstances supportive or detrimental to AI processes. For example, AI may be inappropriate in situations where there is a pre-determined agenda or leadership is very autocratic. Facilitators are also concerned that AI as a methodology should be applied more wholesomely, acknowledging and working through negative emotions rather than suppressing them. Facilitators face a paradox: They embrace values that put the individual centre stage and regard people as human beings rather than human resources. At the same time, they are external service providers to clients who are at times more concerned with quick fixes, and do not want to invest the time necessary to engage in deep reflection on values and transformative change. Findings suggest that we need to reconsider our interpretation of AI towards embracing the underlying humanistic values more, rather than focusing on the concrete applications (e.g. 4D-cycle). The paradox between embracing humanistic values inherent in AI and bottom-line orientation in most organisations warrants further research.