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Appreciative GIS and Strength‐Based Community Change

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Problem‐solving is embedded deeply in the digital DNA of GIS. Most projects involving GIS 1.0 and 2.0 raise community weaknesses, failures and other problems and use them to motivate change. The projects often create a future that does not differ greatly from the past or last long. Although looking into community problems is important and sometimes necessary, the steps of problem‐solving do not always leave people feeling happy. To inspire communities to create change based on their strengths and achievements, and to provide better participant experience, this article develops the concept of a new form of GIS called Appreciative GIS (AGIS). AGIS are grounded in the affirmative premise that every community, however challenged, is gifted with certain assets, potentials and strengths which, when effectively exploited, can take that community to a better and sustainable future. Based on Earth's internal structure, the article develops a useful layered community model where crust, mantle and core strata represent the community's body, life‐draining and life‐giving elements in that order. The model helps explain the different views of the community from current GIS and AGIS perspectives. A Total GIS (TGIS) cube is also developed and used to indicate that current GIS commonly focus on elements of the mantle or what we do not have, what we cannot do and what makes us weak. AGIS, on the other hand, dig up the core and cultivate what we have, what we can possibly do and what makes us strong. In a significant departure from the linear approach of problem‐solving, the article suggests implementing AGIS through a 7G cyclical method. The article contends that although AGIS may not be the whole enchilada, they can serve as a beacon of hope and a powerful source of inspiration especially for individuals and groups who are perceived or made to perceive themselves as dysfunctional, weak or poor.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2014

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