The Appreciative Inquiry Methodology as an Instrument for the Analysis of the Sustainability of Companies

The Appreciative Inquiry Methodology as an Instrument for the Analysis of the Sustainability of Companies

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8185-8.ch006
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There are currently various social innovation practices and efforts to address sustainability and its impact on the world. One of them is the use of the appreciative inquiry methodology (AIM), which results in applying a SOAR analysis focused on sustainability and discovering the strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results of a company. Thus, the company plays a fundamental role through corporate social responsibility (CSR) that seeks to carry out concrete actions that benefit society. This chapter will define what this methodology consists of, its scope, uses, and initiatives that have adopted it as part of their practices for the measurement and promotion of sustainability. One of the main results of using this methodology is to share success stories about innovations that meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through organizations such as AIM2Flourish and B Corp.
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Dr. David Cooperrider and Dr. Ron Fry developed AIM at Case Western Reserve University in the late 1980s. Their work helped create a positive revolution in organizational change and built a framework used by organizations worldwide to flourish (AIM2Flourish, 2021).

Subirana and Cooperrider (2017) defined the five phases that AIM goes through, which according to their analysis, is a cyclical process.

  • · Define: The explanation of the topic is crucial; there are guidelines for designing appreciative, powerful, and generative questions.

  • · Discover: To identify what is life-giving in the organization and appreciate the best of “what is”.

  • · Dream: To visualize the results of what drives us forward (purpose, strategic focus).

  • · Design: To plan the ideal situation or organization to achieve dreams.

  • · Destiny: To ensure that dreams can come true.

To understand AIM, it is essential to define what it is. Based on Grieten, Lambrechts, Bouwen, Huybrechts, Fry & Cooperrider (2018), “AIM is a collaborative and constructive inquiry process that searches for everything that gives life to organizations, communities, and larger human systems when they are most alive, effective, creative and healthy in their interconnected ecology of relationships” (p. 1). Thus, through this methodology, the strengths and what is already working in an organization are discovered, instead of traditional approaches focusing on problems.

Appreciative Inquiry first emerged in the early 1980s. David Cooperrider conducted an organizational diagnostic of the Cleveland Clinic to determine what was wrong with the way the organization was operating. He found that an “appreciative” approach was being used that was causing a powerful and creative stir within the organization. He realized when he asked about what was working that the dynamics of the conversation completely changed (Watkins, Mohr, Kelly, 2011). David Cooperrider is then the main contributor and creator of Appreciative Inquiry. He is currently conducting various investigations to further delve into this methodology, collaborating with other researchers.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Corporate Social Responsibility: Responsibility that companies have for the environment and society.

United Nations (UN): It is an international organization that seeks to maintain international peace and security.

B Corp: Certification focused on businesses worldwide with a triple impact: economic, social, and environmental.

Organizational Development: Processes that seek to develop human capital, achieving efficiency and success in business.

SOAR: Methodology focused on measuring the dimensions: Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results in an organization, with an appreciative approach.

SDGs: Initiative promoted by the United Nations that consists of achieving 17 goals by the year 2030.

AIM2Flourish: It is an international initiative and Platform that incorporates the SDGs through which stories about innovations aligned to these are published.

Social Innovation: Innovative solutions to social and environmental problems, focused on the well-being of the person.

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