Thursday, October 22, 2015


The Definition Phase is perhaps the most critical aspect of the Appreciative Discernment process, because it sets the direction for the process.  Mindful of the Appreciative Inquiry maxim− that an organization will move towards that about which it most persistently inquires− it is important that the discernment process be focused on the positive future that is desired.  As a community, how we focus the process will determine what we create. 

The Appreciative Discernment process revolves around this Affirmative Topic Choice. This choice needs to be unconditionally positive. In my religious congregation we used the topic of: A bold and faithful future together.  In a parish community that used this process they chose the topic: Walking in faith and moving forward with Christ. These topics expressed the hoped for outcome of the discernment process.  A community must thoughtfully and prayerfully chose a topic that best focuses the process on the hope that motivates the community to engage in the process.

William Nordenbrock

Characteristics of Good Topics

Affirmative topics should focus on what members of an organization want to see grow and flourish in their organization. They should evoke conversations of the desired future. When we ask people what they want more of in their organization, the answers are often provocative. As conversations shift away from problems, obstacles, and barriers—and move toward the definition and description of people’s highest ideals for their organization—energy and enthusiasm rise (...)

Whatever the focus, good affirmative topics share four characteristics:

  • Topics are positive. They are stated in the affirmative. 
  • Topics are desirable. The organization wants to grow, develop, 
and enhance them. 

  • Topics stimulate learning. The organization is genuinely curious about them and wants to become more knowledgeable and proficient in them. 

  • Topics stimulate conversations about desired futures. They take the organization where it wants to go. They link to the organization’s Change Agenda. 

After completing the Affirmative Topic Choice phase, an organization will have between three and five compelling, inspirational topics that will serve as the focus for in-depth inquiry, learning, and transformation. 

Diana Whitney & Amanda Trosten-Bloom


“United in the mission of Christ at the service of the African world”



 “Rooted in Christ, in the spirit of our founder we live in the intercultural communities at the service of the African world”


“In the service of the Kingdom of God we are invited to empower our confreres and candidates to be life givers and to be attentive to the elderly confreres, the sick and the broken”


“Our resources at the service of the kingdom of God”


“Rooted in Christ as heirs of Lavigerie, we are called and sent to proclaim the mission of Christ to the African world of today”


“Christ-centred governance and leadership responsive to the signs of the time”

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