An approach based on appreciative inquiry interviewing was selected for the setting of teenagers in a group home. While a number of tools would have been valid for the following engagement with the community, an appreciative inquiry interview was most suitable for the selected demographic and focused on the discovery of assets and strengths found in the community. Essentially, the inquiry would primarily analyze what functions of the community have been working and beneficial while valuing the personal experiences and contributions of those involved in the group homes (Tocino-Smith, 2021). The appreciative inquiry interview should allow for in-depth cultural insight, strengths, assets, and issues in the current state of a group home for teens.
The setting of a group home for teenagers may mix individuals that are very new to community building and management, as such, it is vital to display respect and appreciation when engaging with them about their assets, strengths, and even issues. Additionally, an open and mindful approach is more likely to result in better communication and honest recollection of the community’s qualities. Following the initial interview, it would also be beneficial to engage in the ‘dream stage’ during which the participants and the interviewer could discuss the concrete examples where solutions are already taking place. This step encourages the participants to develop an adequate and realistic vision for the community. The process may generate insights into both the functional as well as lacking aspects of the community. The appreciative inquiry interview is also able to engage with a large audience, which reflects the inclusivity of both the interview and the community.
While an approach based on community asset mapping could be utilized as well, as it also compiles the strengths and assets of a community, it lacks a humanitarian element that can be incredibly useful in the current setting. The holistic worldview analysis proposes to discover a survival strategy for the community with which it engages, which can appear as unfitting terminology in the group home. The problem tree analysis tool is more oriented towards finding the causes of issues, which was not the target of the engagement. The photovoice tool offers an interesting and captivating approach but is also driven more by discovering problems and solutions, than allowing community participants to first discuss the assets and strengths of the setting.
The individuals within the group home setting can be categorized by roles within the setting, age, and cultural background. The group that was part of the questioning included a variety of individuals in terms of roles, from teenage participants to adult employees in the group home. Additionally, the participants had diverse cultural backgrounds and some variety in socio-economic levels. The appreciative interview posed open-ended questions with the potential to expand on the initial inquiry, such as “describe a member of the community who is experiencing high levels of well-being and achievement?” or “within the setting of the group home, can you describe types of positive relationships among teenagers and adults?”.
The following inquiries allowed for clearer insight concerning the culture in the teen group home. Three thematic conclusions came from the responses given by the participants, which were culturally conscious programs, professionalism, and development offered by administrators, and the involvement of the teenagers in the community’s growth. The responses illustrated the levels at which each topic was currently, ranging from functioning to less than satisfactory. However, the replies of the participants highlighted the significance of culture within their daily lives, education, and other aspects of the group home.
A substantial number of issues that were met during the facilitation of the appreciative inquiry tool were expected and commonly found in such processes. First, this included the time-consuming process of the tool (Kandil, 2021). The number of questions that could be asked was limited as each question allowed each participant to offer input as well as diverting from the original inquiry that was posed. Though this offered vital insight into the group home setting, it limited the number of questions as well as any follow-up inquiries.
Second, the nature of an appreciative inquiry is to focus on positive culture and implementations that are currently occurring, which may seem like it ignores the issues that are brought up by the participants. This caused certain issues during the interview, mostly as a misunderstanding, as the primary focus of the inquiries was to focus on the beneficial aspects of the community’s work before turning to improvement (Whitney et al., 2019). As such, it is essential to clarify to the interviewees in future engagements that the open, positive, and supportive environment of the inquiry does not aim to invalidate their concerns, but simply offer an alternative approach to discussing them.
Third, though the appreciative inquiry tool aims to include large audiences and as many participants as possible, it cannot include every stakeholder in a particular topic. As such, any changes based on the conducted inquiry could be seen as unethical as they do not consider the democratic consensus of every affected individual in the community. As the sample of the community interviewed in the following inquiry was small in comparison to the entire community, further inquiries must be made to include all stakeholders before any change can be implemented.
The majority of participants found the focus on the strengths and assets vital in order to consider any future changes. Additionally, the personal approach to their contributions increased their desire and effort to engage with the interview and in other aspects of the community as well. The inquiry worked as a reflection of the input of the participants within the setting, with certain individuals considering improving their presence in managing the growth of their community. Though the participants found that the process of the tool encourages learning and discovery, more could be done to inquire about the issues that are faced by the community. Essentially, while certain problems could be dealt with over time and through further engagement in the positive attributes of the community, certain issues were too big and prevalent to not discuss.
Like many participatory learning and actions tools, the appreciative inquiry method approach focuses on the capacity of people engaged in a community more than the growth of a project or program by considering all stakeholders, focusing on those directly affected, and providing a framework for sustainable change (Stavros et al., 2018). As HiAP addresses health concerns not in isolation but in regards to topics such as economic and environmental disparities, it works well to address the gaps which the appreciative inquiry was unable to address. HiAP structures and policies are often integrated in a number of healthcare organizations, but also work to be implemented in other sectors. For example, social welfare programmes such as Ecuador’s The National Good Living and Sweden’s program to reduce road accident fatalities are all based on fundamental values and concepts promoted and developed by HiAP (Browne & Rutherfurd, 2017). HiAP principles can also be seen in the private sector in relation to technology, intellectual property, or other business that can cause negative effects on general health or the environment, such as tobacco production. HiAP aims to provide a more sustainable society by creating integrated systems and policies that make transparent decisions and changes that engage in fields and industries that are focused on health, the economy, and the environment.
Browne, G. R., & Rutherfurd, I. D. (2017). The case for “environment in all policies”: Lessons from the “health in all policies” approach in public health. Environmental Health Perspectives, 125(2), 149–154.
Kandil, S. (2021). The United States Environmental Protection Agency.
Stavros, J. M., Torres, C., & Cooperrider, D. L. (2018). Conversations worth having: using appreciative inquiry to fuel productive and meaningful engagement. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Tocino-Smith, J. (2021). How to apply appreciative inquiry: A visual guide. Positive Psychology.
Whitney, D., Trosten-Bloom, A. and Vianello, M.G. (2019). Appreciative inquiry: positive action research. Action Learning and Action Research: Genres and Approaches, 163-177.