Imagine Kartong Background Kartong is a small village in The Gambia, very close to the southern Senegalese border. I had visited and worked in Kartong once already as part of an initial ‘contracting’ and value auditing process funded by a subsidiary organisation of the UN. In this previous visit I had been examining the basis of mutual understanding between the villagers (and their elected council), and a local (Western) eco-tourism venture. Both parties were attempting a ground-breaking venture in eco-tourism aimed at creating a partnership between the organisations that was a win/win for all parties – including the ecology of the local environment. I was called back to work there again 2 months later, this time to specifically use Appreciative Inquiry. My earlier work had identified communication to be an area requiring greater focus and thus the inquiry would be aimed at not only helping to facilitate a shared vision for the project but to also simultaneously encourage greater communication between various groups involved in the venture The Project Because I was to be ‘on the ground’ for a short time, I saw my work as the initial phase in a larger process. Thus my main aims were to train people in AI and also assist in building a project plan for what was to be eventually called. ‘Imagine Kartong’. The first step was an AI workshop on communication so that villagers could have a taste of the process and provide instances of when communication worked wonderfully well in the village. Many members of the village turned out for this and a member of the village was taught the basics of AI in order to co-facilitate the process. The themes from this workshop were to be built into the design of the larger exercise of visioning, and of course provided an intervention in of itself into the dynamics between the stakeholders. Stakeholders identified the youth as key to the success of the overall eco-tourism venture and so they were invited to take part in the second strand of this first phase of the project, an ‘’preciative survey’. The youth were given some basic instruction in AI methodology and assisted in the formulation of a basic questionnaire. They also helped identify a cross section of villagers at grass roots level who could be a ‘representative sample’ for the purposes of this ‘pilot’ inquiry. Of a village of 2000 about 50 or so individuals were thus targeted from various interest groups, clubs, tribes and working parties. The stories that were to be collected from the community were on two themes 1) what made Kartong such a special place? and 2) what was the communities vision for the future? A workshop was held with the youth at the end of the weeklong survey in order to pull in the material they had gathered. The stories collected about Kartong as it is and was, were to be recorded in a ‘guide book’ to be used by youth in their training process to become eco-tour guides. The themes generated though the visioning question would also be crucial in the larger process involving an in depth coverage of the village at a later stage in the project. As a climax to this first phase of the project, the youth involved in the Inquiry set up a large village meeting in order to ‘feed back’ the themes and stories to as many villagers as possible. The meeting also had a very large turnout, including many women who came in from the fields to participate, and it involved much singing and dancing. Several representatives from the youth team took a turn at giving those attending a snapshot of the stories they had collected, they also summarised the main themes that had been processed thus far. The youth themselves also explained the eco-tourism initiative and presented to the village how it would benefit not only youth but the village as whole. Follow up In the several months or so following this initial and limited ‘pilot’ discovery phase, the larger vision building exercise is almost ready to take place with a core group formed of ‘grass roots’ representation. The youth are still working through the material they collected in their initial survey and taking part in the planning of the larger exercise. On a process level, participation has dramatically increased in meetings and communication flow is much improved. Even at the national political level the project is receiving higher level backing due to an increased push from the village after the village gathering. All of this can be attributed just to the short intervention primarily using the ‘discovery phase’ of the AI process. The visioning process now continues as a partnership between the village and the private enterprise, with myself providing ‘on-line’ supervision and consultation.