Phil McKenzie

Change for Good Consulting, Wellington, New Zealand



Whether it is for policy, strategy, developing resilience or extension there is a need to engage effectively with the farmers we work with, and often the communities that support them. The purpose of this paper is to outline and discuss an approach that puts farmers at the positive centre of the process, and  begins with what is working well and generates new ideas from this positivity. The engagement uses a process known as Appreciative Inquiry which is both a philosophical approach and a practical tool.  It approaches challenges from a positive mindset, building on what is working well, rather than a deficit approach of starting where something is broken. It draws out ideas as a proactive inquiry rather than a presentation of existing findings. This proactive engagement of farmers helps bring forward the diverse complexities and interrelationships that all need to align for successful extension or any other interaction to take place. An example is given of an on-farm Appreciative Inquiry workshop. The approach works best in a group where the participants can leverage off each other’s ideas and energy, and works most effectively for complex issues where the solution may not be obvious or easy.


Phil is Wellington / Wairarapa based with a deep farm systems knowledge gained from working and learning in many farming regions, in New Zealand and overseas. He is an independent agribusiness consultant, focused on engaging farmers and communities globally in positive conversations and design. The purpose is to enable them to tweak their systems, so they remain profitable, environmentally sustainable, and, feel loved for what they do.

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