Appreciative Inquiry: Visioning Hawaii’s Adaptation to Climate Change

 Dr. Donna Ching presented on Appreciative Inquiry at the Rotary Peace Forum in Hawaii.  It was a very stimulating discussion. 

Here is a paper produced by the University of Hawai’i looking at Climate Change entitled Visioning Hawai‘i’s Adaptation to Climate Change.

The Executive Summary is as follows and then the link is provided below to the paper.



In the course of implementing the legislatively-mandated Ocean Resources Management Plan
(ORMP), the multi-stakeholder ORMP policy group and working group recognized a need for
policy guidance to frame and effectuate a coordinated effort to adapt to the expected impacts of
climate change. In 2009, the ORMP working group partnered with the Center for Island Climate
Adaptation and Policy (ICAP) at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa to develop A Framework
for Climate Change Adaptation in Hawaii. The desired outcome of the process outlined in the
Framework is for Hawaiʻi to adapt successfully to the impacts of climate change.

In order to move implementation of the Framework forward, the ORMP partners agreed that a multistakeholder workshop focused on developing a collective vision to inform policy related to climate change adaptation was a logical next step. This report, and the accompanying report titled, Hawai‘i 2060: Visioning Hawai‘i’s Adaptation to Climate Change; A Final Report of the Alternative Futures Exercise at the 2011 Planning Meeting with the Hawai‘i Ocean Resources Management Plan
Partners, detail the results of this effort.


On August 22-23, 2011, the State of Hawai‘i Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Program, the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and U.S. Army Corps of
Engineer’s Honolulu District’s (USACE) Silver Jackets initiative sponsored a workshop to
facilitate the development of the foundation for a statewide climate change policy. Sixty
participants engaged in the unique workshop, which combined a futures approach with
appreciative inquiry to think “outside the box” and develop a common vision for moving

Participants were selected by identifying representative stakeholders from larger constituencies,
thus resulting in a group that was not so large as to compromise the effectiveness of small group
participation but still include the broadest scope of interests. Participants represented a wide
array of interests, including federal, state and county agencies, academia, Native Hawaiians,
environmental non-profits, community organizations, business associates, insurance companies,
and youth. The list of participants is attached as Appendix A.

First, the workshop co-sponsors wanted to help participants get outside of their day-to-day budget
constraints, time pressures, staff shortages, and vast to-do lists so that they could think bigger and for a larger purpose: re-framing climate change as an opportunity rather than an overwhelming problem for Hawai‘i. In order to achieve this goal, the State of Hawai‘i Office of Planning (OP) contracted the Hawai‘i Research Center for Futures Studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa under Jim Dator, Ph.D., to lead the group through an Alternative Futures Exercise.

This approach is uniquely suited to developing resilient and adaptive policy guidance in the face
of high uncertainty. Among other things, it allowed participants to test their normative
understanding of the present, under alternative future constructs that account for various multisector climate change impacts under various political, cultural, and physical constructs. Dr.
Dator and his team transported participants into the year 2060 to experience four different futures
based on archetypes of continued growth, discipline, collapse, and transformed societies. The participants were asked to “live” within these scenarios, accept them as their reality, and evaluate
the pros and cons. These experiences enabled participants to articulate aspects of the futures
they wished to retain or prevent. Broadly, this process encourages participants to think
creatively when developing policies.

For a complete description of the methodology, the alternative futures experienced and discussed, and reactions and results, please see the accompanying report titled, Hawai‘i 2060: Visioning Hawai‘i’s Adaptation to Climate Change; A Final Report of the Alternative Futures Exercise at the 2011 Planning Meeting with the Hawai‘i Ocean Resources Management Plan Partners.

After the participants experienced the alternative futures for Hawai‘i in 2060, Donna Ching,
Ph.D., from the University of Hawai‘i College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources,
led the group through an Appreciative Inquiry (AI) session in order to focus attention on how we
would like climate change to be addressed in Hawai‘i. Rather than focusing on problems and
gaps, which can inadvertently create more problems, AI searches for what is working in order to
lead the group to success and generate new possibilities from a foundation of priorities
articulated through a process of collective agreement. The complete AI process followed and
outputs from the workshop are included in this report immediately after this Executive Summary,
under Meeting Summary: Group Memory.

Workshop Results

Participants first worked together to conduct an “environmental scan” of the trends, stakeholders,
contributors, competitors, and collaborators that may influence climate change adaptation in the
state. Then Dr. Ching facilitated a discussion on the group’s values. The group collectively
agreed upon the importance of the following value clusters:

A. Equity, Diversity, Justice, Socio-Cultural
B. Innovative, Resourceful, Adaptive, Progressive, Bold
C. Collaborative, Community, Cooperation, Inspiration
D. Don’t waste, Efficiency, Pragmatic, Discipline, Achievable
E. Economics, Value Ownership, Maximum Economic Value
F. Responsible, Stewardship
G. Sustainable
H. Knowledge, Science-based, Education, Wisdom

The list identifies the values participants agreed to specify with concrete actions because of their
importance in a preferred vision for Hawai‘i. These values are detailed in the group memory.
Participants then developed climate change adaption “visions” built upon these shared values.
Common themes from the visions included the following:

• Educated, informed, and aware public that initiated movement;
• Hawai‘i as a leader in adaptation technology and practice;
• Adopted ecological-based land use;
• Cross-jurisdictional collaboration;
• Resilient communities and economy;
• Sustainability and self-reliance (related to agriculture, energy, water, waste, etc.);
• Adaptive management and implementation;
• Involvement of research and education system to adapt and capitalize on opportunities;
• Planning for the next “phase” in policy; and
• Removal of jurisdictional barriers.

These common themes provided the foundation for the draft climate change legislative bill that
the State of Hawai‘i Office of Planning drafted after this session, with continued input from
workshop participants and additional stakeholders.
The group then identified two priority strategic issues and developed action plans for each. They
are briefly described below.

1. Strategic Issue #1: Educated Public and Political Will

a. Goal: Influence political will regarding climate change through educational
efforts.i. Action Item/Result: A group formed to create a plan to implement the
various objectives developed to achieve the goal for this strategic issue.
2. Strategic Issue #2: Integrated Planning and Collaboration

a. Goal: Better integration of planning among all agencies—county, state, and
i. Action Item/Result: Group agreement for the ORMP working group to
determine who will be responsible for implementing this goal and the
associated activities identified.

b. Goal: Create a better balance of the built and natural (e.g., reforestation)
infrastructure to respond to the effects of climate change.
i. Action Item/Result: Group agreement for ORMP working group to
flush out this goal and associated objectives further. Volunteers
surfaced to join the ORMP working group to achieve this effort.

After the Workshop

Several next steps from the workshop were implemented immediately. Companion measures
Senate Bill 2745 and House Bill 2483 were introduced by the Twenty-Sixth Legislature of the
State of Hawai‘i 2012 as part of the governor’s legislative package. Based on the common
themes developed in the workshop, the bills add a priority guideline to the Hawai‘i State
Planning Act. If passed, climate change adaptation will be integrated into county-adopted
general and development plans and implemented through land use permitting and county zoning.
State agencies will be required to consider climate change adaptation as part of their decisionmaking
as it relates to programs, budget priorities, and land use actions. In addition to these
direct statutory requirements, this would be Hawai‘i’s first statute on climate change adaptation.
The policy supports further work in the area of climate change adaptation through
implementation strategies. Workshop participants as well as additional stakeholders were invited
to provide input on OP’s draft. At the completion of this report, one bill was still alive in the
State Legislature as SB2745 SD1 HD1.

Other next steps identified at the workshop for the ORMP working group to move forward have
also gained traction and are currently being implemented. These include the formation and
subsequent work of two subcommittees on integrated planning and outreach/education, which
were created to address the two priority strategic actions identified above. Meeting summaries of
the ORMP working group are available online at


Overall, the two-day workshop allowed leaders to develop a shared understanding of the
inevitable impacts of climate change in Hawai‘i along with a common foundation for a desired
future for Hawai‘i’s people, systems, businesses, and resources. Strategies for adapting to the
adverse impacts of climate change require a multi-disciplinary, integrated planning approach that
takes into account other stressors such as population growth, economic realities, and Peak Oil.
The futures exercise allowed diverse stakeholders to experience alternative futures together,
which stimulated more comprehensive strategies to address future climate change impacts. The
appreciative inquiry approach enabled participants to reach collective agreement on a common
vision for Hawai‘i. The end results of the workshop provided a strong foundation for the
development of priority guidelines for climate change adaptation, which are being proposed by
the Governor of Hawai‘i as an addition to the Hawaii State Planning Act in the 2012 state
legislative session.

To learn more about this paper go to Visioning Hawai’i Adaptation to Climate Change link: