Skip to content Skip to cookie consent
Skip to content


Dreaming big

When we analyse our work, it is all too easy to focus on what is wrong. A refreshing alternative to this is the appreciative enquiry approach.

2016 Available in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese

Footsteps magazine issues on a wooden desk.

From: Impact and change – Footsteps 100

How positive change happens and how best to measure it

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

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: [email protected]

View or download this resource

Get this resource

Similarly Tagged Content

Share this resource

If you found this resource useful, please share it with others so they can benefit too.

Subscribe to Footsteps magazine

A free digital and print magazine for community development workers. Covering a diverse range of topics, it is published three times a year.

Sign up now - Subscribe to Footsteps magazine

Cookie preferences

Your privacy and peace of mind are important to us. We are committed to keeping your data safe. We only collect data from people for specific purposes and once that purpose has finished, we won’t hold on to the data.

For further information, including a full list of individual cookies, please see our privacy policy.

  • These cookies are necessary for the website to function and cannot be switched off in our systems.

  • These cookies allow us to measure and improve the performance of our site. All information these cookies collect is anonymous.

  • These allow for a more personalised experience. For example, they can remember the region you are in, as well as your accessibility settings.

  • These cookies help us to make our adverts personalised to you and allow us to measure the effectiveness of our campaigns.