First Things First


We roughly align our approach to the Appreciative Inquiry 4-D approach of discovery, dream, design, destiny.

1 // Begin with relationships.

  • We begin with relationships, because all work is relational and the people who do the work have plenty of wisdom and illuminating wonders. In this phase we aim to "locate, understand, and illuminate what are referred to as the life-giving forces of any human system’s existence; its positive core."

2 // Listen to the data

  • To phase one human data we add other forms of data, through review and/or creation, to help us appreciate context and complexity while searching for the signal. We do this through review of existing materials, creation of surveys, and hosting of focus groups.

3 // Focus on solutions

  • With qualitative and quantitative data in hand we move to identify solutions. This can include designing new programs, assembling a strategic plan, creating a beneficiary listening campaign, or engaging in board development. Whatever the shape of the result, we use a generative and interactive process to find creative solutions, with an eye toward feasibility and viability.

4 // Collaborate to get things done.

  • Finally, with clear sense for context and a defined purpose, we collaborate to get things done, always remaining respectful of capabilities and capacities.

Groundwork is the result of nearly two decades on-the-ground leading programs, organizations, and networks, as well as supporting boards and non-traditional governance groups. These experiences led to an appreciation that good ideas grow because the basics have been well tended. At the same time, some of the best ideas fail to break through because the antecedents of success have not be built. To grow more good, Groundwork takes a first things first approach.


  1. Your people are your most important resource and their skills and their ability to apply them are the only tools you have. Great organizations invest in strengths-based processes and actively promote self-awareness to help teams become more than the sum of their parts.

  2. Those with the most to gain or lose by an organization's success possess profound, mission-critical insight. Great organizations need systems to reliably hear and lift up user insight.

  3. Good governance is inclusive. Great organizations build routines and structures that create clarity and rhythm, and use common language and transparent process. And they understand that governance must be a process of radical inclusion not another process of structural exclusion.