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Appreciative Governance

Introducing Appreciative Governance – Part One

Neil Samuels*

Over the past year, I have had the pleasure of joining an international consortium of practitioners to research and write about a topic of the future – Appreciative Governance. With thought leaders in alternative governance models we have been exploring the creation of new and more life-giving governance models – models that sit at the intersection of shared contribution and the alignment of strengths. The goals include creating organizations where all thrive and sustainable value is delivered as ‘the new normal.’


Why a New Governance Model?

In our conversations, experience, and research, the idea that major change is afoot was evident; there seems little doubt that we are in the process of a significant global paradigm shift. Our current structures and systems have clearly shown their limits. And new possibilities are emerging – even as the old are collapsing around us. Our growing understanding of complexity and intentional living systems is changing the basic premises for what it means to organize, to be human, to work and live on our planet. This new paradigm reinforces that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and that rather than objective in nature, knowledge and action are subjective, contextual and interwoven. Attention to relationships, processes, networks, growth and development (evolution) is important: these are the essential elements of vitality and sustainable value.

During a year long inquiry into how we might reframe governance, the research carried out by the Appreciative Governance (AG) team showed that AG is distinct from traditional forms of governance in three essential ways:

  • First, there is an intentional commitment to distribute decision-making throughout the organization.
  • Second, AG capitalizes on individual and collective strengths to achieve organizational vision and mission.
  • Finally, AG is grounded in human systems theory and social constructionism, which translates into active support of self-organizing systems within organizational boundaries.

AG offers a set of principles that help to intentionally design the practices, structures and processes within which governance at all levels takes place. An AG design is more than changing the boxes on the ‘org chart’, more than ‘eliminating waste’, and more than simply publishing a new list of organizational values – although all of these may be outcomes.
Imagine a design process that is strengths-based where everyone in an organization, together, generates a life-giving governance process – one that finds people looking forward to the work week.

What’s next?

Future blogs on the topic of Appreciative Governance will cover Principles and Processes for collaborative redesign of an organization’s governance system. In the meantime, if you would like to jump more deeply into this topic, the November issue of the Appreciative Inquiry Practitioner, dedicated to this topic, is available at <<>>

Join the Conversation

Creating organizations where individuals thrive and sustainable value is delivered as “ the new normal” is our goal. Appreciative Governance, its creation and practice, is in its infancy. You are invited to be part of a worldwide conversation. Join the LinkedIn Dialogue on AG led by Sallie Lee, Cheri Torres and Bernard Mohr.

The link is <>. You need to join LinkedIn to take part in the discussion.


* These ideas are based on work developed in collaboration with the team who produced the November 2011 AIP issue on this topic. That team is composed of Patti Millar, Joan Hoxsey, Bob Laliberte, Joep de Jong, and Dan Saint along with Sallie Lee, Cheri Torres and Bernard Mohr who were the co-editors of that issue.



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