Dreaming big


by Richard Lister

Do you come alive when someone encourages you? Take a look at this delightful photo of Lo (below) as fellow participants applaud him. I love the look of joy on his face.

Photo: Richard Lister/Tearfund

When we analyse our work, it is all too easy to focus on what is wrong. As a result, we end up concentrating only on the negatives. A refreshing alternative to this is the appreciative enquiry approach.

I recently used the principles of appreciative enquiry in two workshops in China. We focused on four stages:

  • Devotions: What does the Bible say about what we are working on?
  • Delight: What is going really well in the work already?
  • Dream: What would we love to see happening in the future? 
  • Design: What steps can we take from where we are towards this dream? 

The beauty of this approach is its positive focus. As the Bible tells us, we should encourage one another (Hebrews 10:25). This helps participants relax, prevents defensiveness and encourages people to dream big and take risks. Sticking notes of what we discovered on the walls helped everyone see the journey we were on.

There is much more detail to appreciative enquiry than this. But I have found over the years that just using the four key words above has often been enough. For instance, I have used them to structure an evaluation, a learning review, feedback in a project visit and even the simplest of conversations. I hope people leave with smiles on their faces and ready to chase their dreams.

Richard Lister is Global Church and Development Lead at Tearfund. Email: richard.lister@tearfund.org
Blog: www.churcheschangingnations.blogspot.com