A National Resource to Support Excellence in Community Action

Appreciative Inquiry Process for Strategic Planning

Last Revised: Mar 10, 2011 - Initial Posting: Aug 20, 2007

Springfield Partners for Community Action uses the Appreciative Inquiry Process for strategic planning that builds upon an organization’s underlying strengths and values to create a vision for the future building on what worked best in the past.


Springfield Partners for Community Action has used the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) approach for strategic planning that focuses on positive connections to the organization and to the community.  The AI-based approach includes identification of the agency’s best times during the best situations in the past and then visioning what the agency wants in the future and building from what worked best in order to achieve the vision.

Strategic Planning with Appreciative Inquiry: Unleashing the Positive Potential of SOAR from Innovation Partners International provides a helpful overview of AI.  Aligning strengths with opportunities is the focus using SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results) rather than a SWOT analysis.  The AI often follows a 5-D process:

  • DEFINITION: Decide who to invite and how
  • DISCOVERY – Inquiry into Strengths and Opportunities
  • DREAM – Identify Aspirations and Results
  • DESIGN – Decide which opportunities have the most potential
  • DELIVERY – Implement and Measure Success

Springfield Partners uses a simple survey and similar questions for focus group discussions to gain insights from various stakeholders.  Responses are compiled in summary format for use in developing future priorities and strategies.  The agency has experienced the AI-approach as a mechanism to really focus people on the organization’s strengths and positives.  SPCA has found it to be a very helpful approach and would certainly use it again.

Additional information and resources about AI can be accessed through the Internet including:

AI Resource Guide - Head Start Information & Publication Center          Appreciative Inquiry Commons - Case Western Reserve University

Strengthening an agency’s strategic planning capacity is a key element of ROMA National Goal #5: Agencies Increase Their Capacity to Achieve Results.


Mary Cassidy, Director of Planning and Development
413.263.6500 ext. 6546