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What is Discovery?

Discovery is the second phase of the Appreciative Inquiry process where the team works to discover what gives life to an organization or community when it is at its best.

This phase of the process involves gathering stories and opinions from as many people within the organization or community as possible to learn about the factors that contribute to its success. Discovery is most effective when all voices within the organization or community are heard.

For an brief overview of Dawn please refer to our Discovery Fact Sheet (pdf).

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Planning to Discover

Once your Culture Change Coalition has been established and you have determined the purpose, scope, and scale of your initiative, you will be ready to begin planning for Discovery.

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What would you like to learn?

The first step will likely involve determining together what the group would like to discover. This helps to ensure that the Discovery process (including your recruitment strategy, Discovery questions, etc.) is in alignment with the goals set by the group.

Your group may identify one or two goals, or there may be several. Remember, these goals should be in line with Appreciative Inquiry. In general, the goal is to discover what is working well in your group or organization and what it going on when things are working well.  The goal is to discover what mechanisms are successful and can be built upon in later stages of this process. 

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Identifying Different goals for different stakeholders:

You may also have different Discovery goals for each of the stakeholders (e.g., staff, residents/clients, and their families). These goals will then be used to determine the Discovery questions and process that will help you understand more about your community or organization.

From our experience, we found identifying the “What” (i.e., what we want to discover) and the “What For” (i.e., what we want to do with that information), was a great way to steer our Discovery in the right direction. We also found it helpful to think about what we will do with the information once it is gathered. Below are instructions and a handout template for a 'what and what for' activity you can complete with your group or organization.

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Charting the path for your group

After deciding on Discovery goals determining what actions are needed to achieve the goals, the Culture Change Coalition will need to plan the logistics of undertaking the Discovery process. This will involve:

  • reflecting, as a group, on who will be involved in the Discovery,
  • determining where Discovery will take place,
  • planning when the Discovery will take place, and
  • collaborating on what approach will be taken to facilitate the Discovery process.

Below you will find an activity and template for organizing this information. Note: this process is meant to be flexible, be prepared to shift your plans as new information or ideas emerge from the group.

If you have not done so, we strongly suggest completing the 'Mapping Our Community' and 'Determining Group Expectations' exercises prior to embarking on this part of Discovery. 

It's important to have a sense of what broad groups you will be targeting during Discovery, as each of these groups may respond better to very different Discovery methods depending on group or organizational culture and existing hierarchies etc. 

We have found, for instance that some long term care staff respond very favourably to focus groups, while others prefer the privacy and relative anonymity of online surveys or one on one interviews.  Your Culture Change Coalition (CCC), composed of a broad sample of your larger organization, should be able to determine these best practices specific for your group.

If you or your group is not well versed in possible methods for collecting Discovery information--review the following sections and be prepared to offer a short list and description of possible methods for collecting positive stories, experiences and perspectives before moving on to these Discovery planning activities. Be sure to ask your CCC whether they have any other suggestions which might not be listed but which might suit your group or organization.

Below are two planning activities. 'The Discovery Chart' asks 'who, what, when, why, and how' questions necessary to complete Discovery, and the 'Collecting Positive Stories' activity asks groups to consider how particular Discovery methods might positively or negatively affect the target groups, and to brainstorm on how to keep the experience positive and safe for everyone. Do either or both of these exercises with your Culture Change Organization.

Remember: there are numerous ways to move through Discovery. Your group will have to choose an approach that works best for your organization as well as the populations with whom you are working.

Move forward with Appreciative Questions

Regardless of what methods you choose to use to collect positive stories in Discovery, it is critical that the Culture Change Coalition decides on these questions by consensus.  A draft of questions which emerge from either the Activity - The Discovery Chart or Activity - Collecting Positive Stories activities should be circulated to the entire Culture Change Coalition before the Culture Change Coalition meets to finalize core questions. 

There is no one 'ideal' list of questions for the Discovery phase.  Your group should work together to make sure that Discovery questions are appropriate for each target participant group and are designed appreciatively.  Below is a list of sample Discovery questions used by one of the PiDC Alliance's Culture Change Coalitions.

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Possible methods for Discovery:

  • One on one interviews
  • Discovery discussion sessions (i.e., focus groups).
  • Surveys
  • Community forums
  • Informal conversations
  • Art-based activities

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Collecting Stories

Reaching community members

Gaining the perspectives and opinions of diverse members of the wider community about your group or organization is beneficial.  Not only does this process gather valuable external perspectives, but it also spreads the word about your culture change process and can help to forge partnerships with community groups and members for the future. For instance, at one PiDC Alliance long-term care home, the Culture Change Coalition decided to include the perspectives of their large and active volunteer corps as well as those of service providers who frequently visit the home in addition to staff members, family partners in care and residents. These volunteers also worked as interviewers for staff members during the Discovery process. 

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How to reach the broader community? 

Consider surveys,  focus groups or community forums to gain the perspectives of the wider community.  Below you will find information on how to conduct a focus groups.  Ensure that in planning a focus group for the broader community, that you follow the following tips.

  1. Advertise well, start with groups that are directly involved with your group or organization,
  2. Ask your existing contacts in the community to help spread the word via their own newsletters, web, or social media accounts.
  3. Use your own social media, Twitter, Facebook and websites are good ways to reach people who are already interested and encourage them to participate.
  4. If possible/relevant, use alternative media, newspaper advertisements, radio or press releases to engage members of the community who are not already aware of your activities.

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Reaching clients/residents, staff or family partners in care

Interviews, focus groups, surveys, informal conversation and formal ‘cafes’ or discussion points are excellent ways to gather stories and experiences from clients, staff members within your group or organization, or family partners in care.  

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How to reach the clients/residents, staff or family partners?

Rely on your strong Culture Change Coalition in addition to flyers, web, newsletters and word of mouth to spread the word about interest in participating in the Discovery phase.  Considering contacting management of key departments and ask that they help spread the word. Remember: this is a participatory process, while it is important that management is supportive, be clear that no one should be compelled to take part in Discovery, but can choose to participate at the open invitation of the Culture Change Coalition.

If you and your group have decided that confidentiality is important in this Discovery phase (most do), be sure to reassure potential participants that all information will be kept secure and privacy will be maintained during this process. 

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Reaching Persons Living with Dementia

During Dawn, the PiDC Alliance worked through investigating issues related to inclusion with persons living with dementia. In Discovery, it is important to continue to work to include voices of persons living with dementia in this critical information gathering phase. Inclusion is important, and for the PiDC Alliance, this has meant doing things differently by finding creative ways to gather the experiences and perspectives of persons living with dementia who primarily communicate through non-verbal means. Below are two art-based activities which work to gather the experiences and perspectives of persons with different verbal abilities.  These exercises work well both for persons who communicate primarily through non-verbal means and persons who use spoken language most frequently.

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Organize your Discovery information: collect demographic information

As people sign up for Discovery sessions, you may want to keep track of the participants’ demographic information. This could be helpful when you are analyzing your collected Discovery information because it may give you a better sense of which participant groups are offering what types of responses.

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Other approaches to discovery

You may want to consider other creative approaches to collecting information for the discovery process:

  • Taking photos of places, people, or programs that are successful, or
  • Have people submit or share stories about positive work, care or life experiences related to your group or organization.
  • Some organizations plan a 1-3 day summit, where they embark on the Discovery, Dream, and Design in a condensed fashion.
  • Since all members of an organization may not be able to attend the summit, you could also hold Discovery interviews and discussion groups to ensure that you capture the voices of everyone involved.
  • You may also want to include satisfaction surveys or other questionnaires as part of the Discovery phase, to understand the care experience for staff, residents, and family members in long-term care.

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Do you need approval from an ethics board to embark on culture change?

If your organization has an ethics board or committee, contact them prior to starting any project or Discovery initiative. They may have forms or applications that you need to fill out and submit for approval. If your organization does not have an ethics board or committee, then your group may want to work through the questions provided below to ensure your project/Discovery initiative has considered the well-being of the participants and all those involved in the project. It also helps to ensure all aspects of the project/Discovery initiative are considered.

A template for an information letter for all participants is considered standard ethical practice.  The template below comes from one of the PiDC Alliance Culture Change coalitions and is a good guide for the sort of information you should provide to anyone who is interested in sharing their experiences or perspectives to the Culture Change Coalition.

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Logistics and other concerns

Once Discovery has been thought through, and the plan has been approved by major decision makers or ethics boards, you can begin thinking about the actions needed to put the plan in place.

  • Do you have to send e-mail or make phone calls to members within the organization to ask them to participate?
  •  Do you have to book a room and order food for Discovery sessions or summits?
  • Do you have to print off information letters or interview guides for participants?
  • Do you have to purchase or borrow audio recording equipment?
  • Do you have to make labels to mail out information, such as questionnaires?
  • Who will do what tasks and when? You may also want to create checklists for the specific Discovery approaches. For example, a checklist for hosting a discovery focus group will help the facilitator be prepared on the day. Checklists completed by the coalition will help ensure roles and timelines are clearly defined.

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Instructions for interviews and focus groups

If your group decides to host discovery sessions (focus groups) to gather information for your Discovery, you will have to determine who will be conducting the interview or facilitating the discovery sessions. You will then need to ensure these individuals have the information they need to facilitate the sessions. We found it helpful to hold a ‘training session’ where the skills and strategies around interviewing and facilitating groups are discussed and taught. This can be a time to role play and practice implementing these skills.

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How do we keep things ‘appreciative’ in an interview or focus group? People like to talk about problems.

During Discovery, we needed to practice leading and engaging in appreciative interviews or discussion sessions. This was an important skill to develop because some participants feel the need to discuss and focus on negative events, instead of sharing success stories. During Discovery, keep the conversations as appreciative as possible. 

It might helpful to have the contact information of someone who people can connect with to voice complaints or concerns, particularly in the event someone becomes upset. Below is an activity aimed at creating appreciative questions that can be used in Discovery as well as a sample focus group schedule, so that facilitators can see what sort of focus group format has worked well for the PiDC Alliance.

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We’ve collected all the positive stories and information, now what? 

Analysing collected Discovery information with your CCC

Collecting the positive stories, experiences and perspectives from the wider community at your group or organization marks the end of the first half of the Discovery phase.  During the second half of Discovery, your Culture Change Coalition will work on analysing the information that has been collected in order to learn about already existing strengths and see how these strengths can be expanded on in future care practice.  Remember, this is a strengths-based process.  The goal of Discovery is very simple.  Find out what is working well already and ask yourselves what this information tells us about an ideal care future.

This process can take some time; it's important not to rush. We have found surprising revelations by carefully going through, and critically reflecting on the information we have gathered in Discovery. These revelations have lead to strong, provocative visions of an ideal future in the Dream phase.  Depending on what Discovery methods you have chosen, and how much you have collected, analysis of collected Discovery information can take several meetings. 

Below is an activity for explaining and undertaking the task of reviewing the information gathered during the first half of the Discovery process.  The process is simple. Review the information you collected while asking simple questions about what is working well, and what is happening when things are working well from the perspective of all the Discovery participants (staff; family, residents; community etc.). Also included is a template for the activity, and a completed form from one of the PiDC Alliance Culture Change Coalitions which show's what analysis of Discovery information could look like.

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Thinking Ahead! Exercises to prepare for Dream phase

As your group begins the analysis portion of the Discovery phase, it is useful, in icebreakers and other short exercises, to begin to prepare the group for the Dream phase of the Appreciative Inquiry process.  Look ahead in the Dream phase and consider incorporating some of the suggested ice breakers into your Discovery phase work.

Is your organization experiencing challenges with the Discovery phase?

For assistance with overcoming culture change barriers see our guide to overcoming barriers to culture change.

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References

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Continue to Phase 3: Dream

Appendix: 2. Discovery, Activities and Handouts

What is Discovery?

Discovery_Fact_Sheet (pdf)

Planning to Discover

Charting the path for your group

Reaching persons living with dementia

Ethics

Logistics and other concerns

Instructions for interviews and facilitating focus groups for Discovery

How do we keep things 'Appreciative'

We've collected all the positive stories and information, now what?

Thinking ahead! Exercises to prepare for Dream phase

References

Dupuis, S.L., McAiney, C.A., Fortune, D. B., Ploeg, J., & de Witt, L. (2014). Theoretical foundations guiding culture change: The work of the Partnerships in Dementia Care Alliance. Dementia Online First, January 13, 2014. Available from Sage Journals Online

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Continue to Phase 3: Dream

For more information on any of the PiDC Alliance initiatives, contact Sian Lockwood, Knowledge Translation Specialist.

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