Igniting Strengths to Invent the New American City

Igniting Strengths to Invent the New American City

Imagine the New American City. What do you see? What are people doing? What are you doing? Who is with you? How does it feel? Take time now to jot down a few notes in answer to these questions.

We all have a vision of this city, this metropolis. This vision will come from what we see we’d like to see more of, and sometimes from a call to make good of something bad. Each vision held by each person will be different, depending on where we stand, our aspirations, our gifts, and our relationships. And yet, if all those individual visions were realized, in whatever configuration with one another that might evolve, this new metropolis would be a wonder indeed.

Cities are where society is made, where commerce thrives, arts come alive, and good government cultivates our culture and referees whole system functioning. Cities are where people rub shoulders, create together, confront imperfections, and work possibilities into realities.

This past Friday and Saturday 40 or so citizens of the Cincinnati region worked closely together to design a summit capable of propelling the area toward new possibilities. With their sights set on hosting a summit of several hundred to possibly several thousand to ignite those possibilities, these 40 wrangled together.

With each participant choosing the area in which they wished to apply their strengths, resulting subgroups designed the summit architecture: the summit task, pre-summit research and education, stakeholder mix and who to invite, and post-summit follow up.

From the outset defining the summit task has been challenging. The region has such challenges and such opportunity, defining a task based in concrete realities and yet also reaching beyond current definitions to a higher aspiration was a tall order. The subgroup charged with defining the task wrestled with many critical questions. How is the geography defined? Inner core? Poor neighborhoods? All neighborhoods? The region? What is the goal? Economic prosperity: Is that enough? Flourishing: For who and who defines it?

The discussion took on various hues and tones. Passion, frustration, exasperation, hope, enthusiasm were all at work. Enlightenment too: To hear the wisdom in the room from people who would be unlikely to meet otherwise, brought together in improbable partnering, delivered many eureka moments.

With time running out, facilitators Mark Chupp and David Cooperrider, opened Defining the Task up to the whole room. These two men held the space brilliantly. By the magic that seems to deliver every time, a task statement was landed upon.

As those in the room unpacked the task statement it became clear there was something in it to inspire at every level. Igniting our individual strengths, those of our personal networks, our neighborhoods, organizations, and system-wide players and resources, towards the invention and co-creation of the New American City (or metropolis) has play space for everyone.

The task statement, to Ignite Our Strengths to Invent the New American Metropolis is still subject to fine tuning and sober second thought. If it holds in spirit, and odds are it will, those who work to make it real will do something beyond themselves. They may well cast light on a pathway other urban centres might enjoy walking along too.

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