Home » AI Summit & SOAR: Tools for Strategic Planning

AI Summit & SOAR: Tools for Strategic Planning

Targeting Success

An Appreciative Inquiry Summit (AI Summit) brings together a large group of stakeholders of an organization or a community and engages them in an elaborate four-phase process of collectively and systematically rediscovering their strengths, life-giving qualities and aspirations ultimately aimed at a ‘whole system positive change’. The focus of an AI Summit is on amplifying those aspects that work best for the organizations and communities while building on their positive core, as opposed to the traditional approach of problem diagnosis and solution search. The potential uses of AI Summit are: organization development; strategic planning; public policy formulation; community development; and conflict resolution. (Manjunath Sadashiva, CIVICUS)

The AI Summit provides an opportunity for a whole system positive change. The benefits of the large group process  range from building relationships and partnerships to building businesses and global organizations. Successful Appreciative Inquiry Summits have been conducted at medical centers, universities, consumer products, and high technology companies.  They have been used to craft an innovative union-management partnership, to form a strategic business alliance between two high technology companies, to do annual company wide strategic planning, and as a forum for culture change. The possibilities are boundless!

CM AI SummitI designed and directed the AI Strategic Planning Summit at the American International School of Guatemala (Colegio Maya). Stakeholders (students, parents, teachers, faculty, alumni and former teachers) came together in spirit and effort to address the next steps in addressing school improvement. The synergistic and enthusiastic participation led to the development of seven targets for school success. In the follow-up design and destiny stages, I was able to coordinate the work of the community task forces to create specific school improvement action plans for the areas of Balanced Literacy, Student Leadership, Active Learning, Technology, & Student Activity Options. Based on the success of this AI Summit Experience, I was able to support my colleague in Empowerment Unlimited, Dr. Sherry Miller, in the successful design of an AI Summit for the Jakarta International School.

“Where your attention goes, your energy flows and life grows…”                                                                                                                    (2009 Colegio Maya Strategic Planning Summit T-shirt Logo)



SOAR is a strategic planning framework with an approach that focuses on strengths and seeks to understand the whole system by including the voices of the relevant stakeholders (Stavros & Hinrichs, 2009). It is a positive approach to strategic thinking and planning that allows organizations to construct its future through collaboration, shared understanding, and a commitment to action. The acronym SOAR stands for:

S = Strengths

O = Opportunities

A = Aspirations

R = Results


This framework is positively oriented and inclusive – as opposed to the more traditional SWAT model. SOAR uses a 4-I step by step process similar to the 4-D process of Appreciative Inquiry. The following diagram from Stavrosdemonstrates the alignment:

Part 1 Discover and Dream

Part2 Design Destiny


The Appreciative Inquiry Summit: An Emerging Methodology for Whole System Positive Change Cooperrider & Whitney (document)

Appreciative Inquiry Summit example (video)

Strategic Inquiry with Appreciative Intent – Inspiration to SOAR: A New Framework for Strategic PlanningCooperrider, Stavros, & Kelley (document)

Strategic SOAR-ing with Appreciative Inquiry: Stories from the Field Donovan (Slideshare)

AI Summit book   SOAR book


Guiding Question: What potential does doing strategic thinking together as a whole group/organization in a way that is inclusive and a positive focus have?


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