David Cooperrider, PhD (GRS '86, organizational behavior), is a Distinguished University Professor and the Fairmount Santrol - David L. Cooperrider Professor in Appreciative Inquiry.
"Years ago, I developed an approach to scholarship called "Appreciative Inquiry [AI]." It is a way of designing questions that allows us to dream and devise big ideas together, instead of focusing solely on problems. It can quickly bring out the best in people and has been adopted by businesses worldwide.
In 1998, the Dalai Lama and others were developing a forum to bring leaders of all the world's religions together in dialogue, and his assistant asked if I would design and facilitate the events—and develop five opening questions.
I immediately thought, "This is way out of my league."
But I felt it would be a huge privilege.
For two full weeks, I developed those questions. I'd write them, then throw them away. I'd write them again and throw them away. I knew how critical it was. If the questions were right, miracles were possible. The first, for example, asked participants to describe a time when they saw clarity about their life's purpose. I wanted them to connect with each other's faith traditions. Imagine seeing the Dalai Lama ask a Greek Orthodox bishop the questions.
The event was a success. It changed my life to work with so many remarkable people.
Our next meeting was with former President Jimmy Carter at the Carter Center. There have been many similar events since that first one. And then a United Religions Initiative that uses AI was born and now has 699 centers around the world.
The first event stands out as one of the high moments of my career because it taught me that we live in worlds that our questions create."