Appreciative Inquiry Core Competencies

The Center for Appreciative Inquiry developed the following competencies to provide a framework to help individuals strengthen their understanding, skills, and application of Appreciative Inquiry by identifying both the technical skills and behavioral expectations needed to succeed in the field of Appreciative Inquiry. CAI utilizes these competencies when reviewing programs in its recertification and program accreditation process.

DEFINITION – Define Ourselves as Change Agents and Its Impact on Our Work

Personal values serve as our ‘compass’ in life and work. Our values impact how we perceive the world around us, guide our decision making and problem solving capabilities, and influence how we interact with those around us.

• Identify and understand your personal and professional values – implicit and explicit.
• Understand the lens from which you view the world (race, ethnicity, culture, beliefs, prejudices, assumptions)
• Appreciate and work from your ‘Authentic’ self.
• Utilize Emotional Intelligence (EQ) to understand, utilize, and regulate your emotions in positive ways that relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome obstacles, and defuse conflict and adversity.

– Self-Awareness. Recognize and identify your emotions and how it impacts clients and influences your work.
– Social Awareness. Read a group’s emotional currents, culture, and power dynamics and how it impacts your client and influences your work.
– Self-Management. Retain the ability to serve as a positive balance for others during times of adversity.
– Relationship Management. Take intentional steps to ensure the relationship between you and the client is both healthy and beneficial.
– Empathy. Sense other people’s feelings, understand their perspective, and take an active interest in their concerns.

Increasing our understanding and appreciation of what makes each of us unique helps AI Professionals provide services and offerings that are meaningful and impactful to all their clients.

• Understanding and acting in alignment with the values and beliefs reflected in the theory and practice of Appreciative Inquiry.
• Encompass the Principles of Appreciative Inquiry in your personal and professional life.
• Embody the behavior needed to facilitate and empower stakeholders to become successful change agents within their own systems.
• Transfer the knowledge of the wholeness principle to clients so they understand how their individual actions impact the organization.
• Examine and challenge your assumptions about your work.
• Facilitate the process so your role as consultant is almost invisible.

AI Professionals understands that every interaction with a client is an opportunity to strengthen the working relationship and nurture trust. Working alongside their client, AI Professionals co-create an environment where trust, openness, and transparency flourish.

• Convey your values to clients to help them to understand and trust you.
• Allow client to communicate their concerns and fears without judgement or consequence.
• Display the energy and confidence you want clients to feel about the work that is co-created.
• Share knowledge freely.
• Create an environment of openness and transparency.
• Determine the essential elements that need to be present for the change(s) to be successful.
• Reply to clients in an effective and timely manner.
• Advocate at all levels (i.e., individual, group, organization) any potential barriers and obstacles that may impact the growth and development for the consultant(s) and/or client.

Each person and organization is unique. Creating appreciative working agreements allow AI professionals and clients to quickly come together and work from a shared sense of purpose and process.

• Introduce the concepts and researching underlying Appreciative Inquiry that is both energizing and experiential.
• Propose a change intervention that meets the needs of the prospective client.
• Discuss and agree on a clear objective of the process and content for the consulting project.
• The deliverables listed in the agreement must be concrete, realistic and achievable.
• Present a clear timeline for all work items.
• Identify the point of contact for all questions and information.
• Establish roles, responsibilities and expectations for all parties listed in the agreement.
• Establish communication channels that work best for all parties.
• Ensure all verbiage is meaningful within the industry in which you are working.
• Clearly establish how much the project will cost and how payment will be made (e.g. prepayment, reimbursement).
• Invite feedback so that all voices are reflected and agreed upon in the appreciative working agreement before the project/work begins.

DISCOVERY – Identify Client’s Focus of Inquiry and LGFs through the Power of Inquiry

Active listening is a process where one seeks to listen and understand the ‘complete message’ being conveyed by the client by piecing together their verbal and non-verbal cues.

• Demonstrate a desire to understand where your client is coming from and what they hope to achieve.
• Do not filter what you hear. Be aware of all information being provided to you by the client (i.e., facts, feelings, emotions, and ideas).
• Remain neutral and non-judgmental.
• Maintain positive posture, tone, and wording when engaged in dialogue with a client.
• Provide clients with adequate time to explore their thoughts and feelings.
• Refrain from interjecting conversations with questions and comments any time there is a pause in the conversation.
• Demonstrate understanding by paraphrasing what the client has said.
• Ask relevant questions that help the client build upon and/or clarify what they have said.
• Summarize progress of the conversation from time to time.

Asking the right questions allows the AI Professional to learn more about the clients and their work and gives the client the chance to create new opportunities and move forward.

• Ask questions that introduce your clients to new ideas, people and situations.
• Inquire into your client, the work they do, their culture, etc.
• Ask questions to help identify the strengths of the individual and/or organization
• Ask questions to uncover the Life Giving Force of the individual and/or organization.
• Ask questions that empower clients to dream of new opportunities, generate excitement and inspire action.
• Ask open-ended questions.

DREAM – Create an Intervention to Assist Clients in Achieving Their Ideal Future

Because no two Appreciative Inquiry interventions are ever the same – the time, resources, and coordination needed to successful conduct an Appreciative Inquiry will vary from client to client.

• Choose a form of engagement that is most appropriate for your client’s change agenda, timeline, resources and other circumstances.
• Field test the interview guide until all discussions and energy focuses on the affirmative topic.
• Seek information about the client that will help you to create an intervention that meets their needs.
• Seamlessly bridge difference perspectives from different groups within the organization.
• Understanding how organizational forces that may impact the client and the success of the project.
• Remaining flexible in project activities and delivery techniques so that they are inclusive of the diversity represented in the organization.
• Understand pedagogy and how it can influence the learning experience for the client (e.g. lesson plans, room setup).
• Engage the participation of those with caries learning and thinking styles.

Providing a support structure is essential for assisting clients to emotionally and practically adjust to change(s) and to build proficiency of behaviors and technical skills needed to achieve desired results.

• Identify and enlist the support of positive deviants within the group to help champion the change initiatives.
• Promote core team creation that encompasses the Wholeness Principle by ensuring the core team is a diverse slice of the team, group, organization or community.
• Help client identify where support is most required and what types of support will be most effective.
• Assist your client in developing a communication strategy that answers how the change will be communicated, shared, and managed.

AI Professionals foster a culture of dialogue which encourage creativity, resolve conflict, create shared meaning, and generate new opportunities.

• Encourage feedback through the change process and make adjustments when possible
• Formulate decisions with input from various perspectives.
• Solicit input from individuals who may not speak up.
• Guide the focus and direction of conversations.
• Create space (physically and virtually) to allow for people to provide input.
• Ask follow-up questions to collect more information.
• Clarify meaning of words as they vary from client to client.
• Create a safe space for people to express feelings (e.g., interpersonal issues may impact culture, output, etc.).
• Help individuals identify and review underlying assumptions.
• Surface conflict, acknowledge feelings and views of all parties, and then redirect the client’s energy towards a shared ideal.

Curiosity can spark the path to innovation by allowing clients to view tough situations more creatively. Allow clients to develop more trusting and more collaborative relationships with colleagues, consumers, and vendors.

• Ask questions about ideas to help clients think deeper about their perspective.
• Encourage clients by providing them time, space and resources needed to explore their interests.
• Help clients make the transition from providing good answers to asking great questions.
• Help clients reframe situations and conversations from a deficit mindset to one of abundance.
• Encourage clients to express curiosity in ways that are most comfortable.
• Invite and encourage clients to think outside the box.
• Ensure all ideas are captured.
• Empower clients to create ways of working creatively and effectively in an ever-changing work environment.
• Encourage the clients to know itself and trust that identifying its strengths will enable them to imagine and co-create their best possible future.
• Enable/empower clients to develop understanding, skills and abilities to operate creatively outside of your assistance.
• Help clients shift their thoughts, words and attention from what they do not want, to what he/she/they want.
• Facilitate client brainstorming sessions to identify high energy themes, threads, quotable quotes.
• Assist clients in creating powerful metaphors and images of their positive topic.

DESIGN – Develop Actionable Items to Serve as Roadmap for Change

AI Professionals help clients unleash their imagination, generative intelligence, and ability to innovate and improvise to design their preferred future.

• Assist the client in bringing their dream into focus.
• Move from concepts and discussions to action and defined accountability.
• Assist client in designing specific actions that will allow the client to practice, demonstrate and achieve their desired outcomes.
• Help clients explore how new relationships, information and resources can support the success and sustainability of the client’s outcomes.

AI Professionals empower clients to take ownership of their actions and the impact these action have on achieving the client’s overall goals for the change initiative.

• Measure the change process.
• Keep the client focused.
• Assist the client in modifying action item(s), if needed.

DESTINY – Encourage Clients to Live and Work with Positive Intention

AI Professionals help clients break through potential roadblocks by refocusing their time, energy, and resources on the actions necessary to achieve their desired outcomes.

• Help client focus on results and outcomes
• Encourage the client to continue exploring what gives life to human systems when they function at their best.
• Empower the client.
• Coaching/mentoring client.
• Consider the type of follow-up support would be useful for your client, including frequency of contact.
• Celebrate short term wins.
• Provide effective training.
• Identify and/or provide resources for the client to access in the future to support growth.
• Help client understand and implement an ongoing Discovery, Dream and Design in whatever they plan to do.
• Determine the role you will play, if any, in your client’s future.

AI Professionals nourish their curious minds by actively participating in activities that provide new knowledge and experience. As a lifelong learner, AI Professionals broaden their understanding of the world around them – allowing them to provide clients with more and better opportunities to flourish.

• Engage in ongoing study/learning related to the field of Appreciative Inquiry.
• Practice reflection and learning.
• Build personal industry knowledge and networks.
• Maintain Appreciative Inquiry Certification.

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