AIC Process

What is the AIC Model?

The AIC Model
The AIC Model
©2015 odii, Organizing for Development, LLC

Imagine you are at work and you have a report to write by next Tuesday. Assume you have all the information and resources to write the report. You just have to get it done.

Control: Examining the chart above, you are operating in the blue circle at the center of the chart. You are in your field of control. You are the self, and the power you have is control. Your purpose is narrow; it has a short time frame, available resources and is quite specific. In other words, you are in your field of control:

  1. Your purpose is a goal.
  2. Your power is control.
  3. Your leadership is your relationship to yourself and your own commitments, capacity and personal resources to complete the goal.

Influence: However, this report is part of a larger project to evaluate the department's progress over the last year. Now the purpose is larger and more diffuse; the time-frame is longer; others are involved and each has a different view and a different set of values they bring to the task of assessing the department's performance. The purpose is no longer one simple goal; it requires the harmonization of several people's values. Leadership no longer depends on you alone—it also requires initiative from others you do not control but can influence. You are operating in the red circle of influence.

  1. Your purpose is now a value.
  2. Your power is influence.
  3. Your leadership becomes a process of integrating your purpose and powers with those of others through influence.

Appreciation: At the highest level in the chart, the yellow circle, you are looking at the impact of your evaluation project on your world i.e., everything that affects and is affected by your work. You see your evaluation project in the light of the mission of your organization and its highest possible level of purpose: its ideals.

For example, the organization, ideally, wants to become more ecologically conscious. It wants to be socially responsible but it also wants to operate economically. These ideals affect and are affected by factors beyond what you or the organization can control or influence. You can only appreciate them. Appreciation in this sense means understanding the whole situation—in all its aspects that affect the purpose. It is a broader and older sense than the current more colloquial one of positive regard. Our appreciative power enables us to assess the nature and importance of that whole appreciative field of impact on our organizations: social, technical, political, ecological, etc. We now have an even higher level of AIC relationships. In the appreciative field:

  1. Your purpose becomes an ideal.
  2. Your power becomes appreciation.
  3. Your leadership becomes a process of integrating your purpose and powers with those of others and your world through appreciation.

The real power of AIC in practice is that it very gently enables a person or organization to take a holistic view of their own purposes, those of their stakeholders and those of their world. Whether we recognize it or not, every purpose exists at the three levels of ideals, values and goals. Every purpose requires appreciative, influence and control powers; and every purpose requires leadership that integrates all three levels of the self, others and the relevant world.

  1. The internet has been a primary facilitator. It gives the power of voice to individuals and has forced both institutions and individuals to pay more attention to their world.
  2. There has been a large increase in spiritual movements and an attempt to transcend the authoritarian aspects of religion.
  3. Movements such as the Arab Spring have given voice to individuals against autocratic regimes.
  4. Corporations and government have begun to talk about their responsibilities to the world we all share—beyond the control or influence of corporations and countries.

The Main Characteristics of AIC

AIC is a philosophy based on an the understanding that power is central to the process of organizing. This philosophy states that purpose—not wealth, authority or knowledge—is the source of power. Every purpose, no matter how big or small, creates a power field that has the same AIC properties.

AIC is a model that illustrates the relationship between purpose and power. The model is named after the three fundamental and universal relationships involved in the design of any purposeful system: the relationship to the whole (appreciation), the relationship between the parts of the whole system (influence) and the relationship of the individual part to itself (control). Just as the mixing of three primary colors can give millions of different colors, so to can the mixing of (A), (I) and (C) give millions of shadings of power relationships.


A Brief Guide to the AIC Process


Key Questions

Key Capacity

Key Process PointS

The source of power
What is level of purpose and in what time-space constraints. Wisdom Realize that all levels of purpose are present and the more aware you are of them all the more power you release for application to your issue.
Appreciation: Our power to attract purpose through resonance with the whole. What are the possibilities?What are the realities? Intuition
Keep the process open Use art, or other imaginative means to express appreciation and cause suspension of disbelief. Receive appreciation in silence to avoid attempts at influence or control
Influence: Our power with others we cannot control but who can affect our purpose. What are the priorities? Who will support and who oppose? Thinking
Keep engaged Keeps the dialogue going. Do not try to settle for one solution. Encourage both support and opposition for every proposal.  Seek resolution of value differences for this cycle of time only.
Control Our power over the resources we own, relative to the purpose. What will you commit to? Will it achieve the purpose? Action
Allow those responsible to choose what they will do, given the insights from above. Let them be responsible for the results.
Feedback Cycle How are we doing? Commitment Place reviews of progress and new options at the center of your organizing process.


The function of appreciation is to connect us to that part of the whole power field that is outside our area of control or influence. We achieve this appreciation by opening ourselves up, by letting go of our attempts to influence and control. When we do we can fully utilize our intuitive and sensing capacities to perceive the full depth of realities and the full scope of possibilities that are latent in the power field created by our purpose. Successful appreciation helps us identify our ideal purposes, it gives ultimate meaning to our activities, it provides the outer parameters or boundaries of trust and dissolves many issues of influence and control before they can even arise. Successful appreciation is assessed by such criterion as the legitimacy of the purposes being served. Are the legitimate purposes of the self, the others and the whole being met?

The function of influence is to put all the parts of the whole in relationship to each other to build the best model of the past, present and future of the situation and the best strategies for achieving the purpose. Influence transforms the output of appreciation into relationship of value to each of the parts of the whole (stakeholders). Influence operates through a dynamic process of interchange that makes the best and worst possible outcomes evident to each part. Whereas appreciation stays open to all possibilities, influence is concerned with identifying the few variables, the few strategies that have the highest probability of achieving the purpose. Successful influence remains open to new appreciations but produces a satisfactory resolution of all the conflicting interests of the stakeholders. The ultimate criterion of successful influence is the effectiveness of the judgments made about the roles and the relationships between the stakeholders and the elements of the strategy or model of the whole employed.

The function of control is to determine the form in which the purpose will be made manifest in the world. Whereas appreciation provides in-formation and influence provides trans-formation, control provides form-ation. Whereas appreciation is open to all possibilities and influence seeks the best probabilities, control must close down options to the one actuality that can be realized in a specific timeframe with specific production parameters. Control takes the infinite subjective possibilities of appreciation and reduces them to the single objective, produced reality. Control provides the actual form of a solution. Whereas the role of the appreciative field is to create conditions that avoid or dissolve problems of influence and control, and whereas the influence field reaches a satisfactory resolution between mutually incompatible interests, control is the only level that solves problems. We can only solve a problem when we have control of all the variables affecting its solution. The solution changes reality forever and creates the need for a re-appreciation of current realties. And the process begins again.

AIC is an organizing process which consists of:

  1. identifying the purpose to be served;
  2. framing the power-field around that purpose—those who have control, influence and appreciation relative to the purpose;
  3. selecting those with the most influence relative to the purpose (stakeholders) from the three circles and designing a process of interaction between them; and
  4. facilitating a self-organizing process which ensures that the stakeholders:
    1. step back from the current problems to fully appreciate the realities and possibilities inherent in the whole situation;
    2. examine the logical and strategic options as well as the subjective feelings and values involved in selecting strategies; and
    3. allow for free and informed choice of action by those responsible for implementing decisions.

Why AIC Works
The major issues we face arise because we are unable to control the complex, dynamic, interactive multidimensional variables that affect what we want to do. We feel frustrated because our reigning organization and management paradigms expect us to achieve levels of control that we instinctively know are impossible.
From a base in Social Systems Sciences, AIC has evolved specifically to deal with complex, dynamic issues that are beyond our control. The original research targeted the most complex, difficult problems in the most difficult areas of the world in the most complex sectors possible.

AIC is not wedded to any particular methodology.
It provides a framework that helps organizers choose or design methodologies appropriate to the phase of the organizing cycle and to the local situation. For example, the appreciative phase can use brainstorming, search conferences, Delphi techniques, story-telling, art, etc. In the influence phase, it can use methodologies such as dialogue, open-space, negotiation and conflict resolution. In the control phase it can use such methodologies as Management by Objectives, the Logical Framework, ZOPP, and PERT.

The AIC self-organizing process is consciously trans-cultural.

Through the study of natural and formal organizations in many cultures we have learned that individuals, organizations and cultures manifest a particular pattern of appreciation, influence and control. The AIC process uses this knowledge to draw out the best of each culture's natural process—but also to transcend its natural limitations.




The AIC self-organizing process has been applied worldwide to both public and private organizations. It has been used at every level—village, regional, national and global. It has been applied to projects ranging from village development to the design of national policy in Cambodia, Colombia, Hungary, Indonesia, Mali, Norway, Sierra Leone, Thailand and the United States.

It has addressed very technical issues such as the design of policies for energy, very political issues such as the peace process in Cambodia, and complex institutional issues such as the design of market systems for Hungary.

In Thailand, the self-organizing process has taken on a life of its own, in both the private and public sectors. A Thai Foundation, which promotes the process, has been formed under royal patronage. A series of "five star" partnerships between the government, the private sector, community and religious organizations and NGOs (Non Governmental Organizations) have been created to promote programs of development that extend to 50,000 villages. In 1996 The National Planning Department, NESDB, completed the first national plan using the AIC process. see the paper "Building Partnerships Between Government and Civil Society: The Case of Paiboon Wattanasiritham and the Governmental Central Bank."
Also, the paper "Generating Shared Visions for Community Development in Southeast Asia: The AIC Process."


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