Strengths Effort a New Way to Engage and Empower the Community

Strengths Effort a New Way to Engage and Empower the Community

We see this (work) as . . . a blending of processes that are really going to accelerate and complement the existing regional initiatives: Victor Garcia

Victor Garcia proposes the upcoming strengths summit for Cincinnati offers a new and different way to engage and empower the community.

The effort is “really looking at how a city, a community, can work differently with its residents and its citizens to create a city that really we all truly aspire to have and to enjoy,” says Victor, pediatric surgeon with the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre.

Engaging the whole system is an integral part of the approach.

The Appreciative Inquiry (AI) methodology’s shift from problem-solving to creating is also a key point.

Design thinking, as well as the discovery and application of individual strengths, are also an important part of this “new way.”

Other regional initiatives already underway in the city have created significant aspirations around tackling economic and social disparities.

These initiatives include Vision 2015, a now 15-year agenda systematically working towards important culture changes in northern Kentucky, and Agenda 360, a similar effort in the south.

The United Way of Cincinnati is also engaging the community around three what it terms bold goals, with a target realization date of 2020.

“We see this (work) as . . . a blending of processes that are really going to accelerate and complement the existing regional initiatives,” says Victor.

He shares the similarities he’s seen in stories from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela and renowned conflict resolution leader John Lederach, where conversations revealed the groups involved actually “wanted the same thing.”

Realizing they did share a common vision provided the basis for beginning to work together.

“Then (the question) was how do you go about engaging in that inquiry, that dialogue, amongst the most improbable group of people,” says Victor.

He adds that’s where experiencing AI and understanding the interdependencies of the various systems is “catalytic and helps accelerate the process.”

Looking ahead, Victor says the momentum that has already been generated around this AI effort gives him great hope. He’s hearing from community members asking why they haven’t been invited to the table. He’s hearing from more business leaders about the possibilities they’re seeing in this work.

In particular, members of Leadership Cincinnati Class 34, who are exploring AI through what they’re calling learning journeys, are becoming greater champions for the effort.

“I think you can talk all you want about Appreciative Inquiry, but unless you experience it you don’t really appreciate the power of the inquiry, and how difficult it is, but how possible it is,” says Victor.

“The class, because of the events they’ve participated in, very much see the potential and that has generated even more momentum.”

Victor adds he’s compelled by this year’s stats on the city’s disparities, which have in fact worsened for the most part, heightening the crucial need for a new approach.

If you have feedback on this article please contact Michelle at 705-741-4421, ext. 27, or e-mail michelle(at)

Writer Bio

Michelle Strutzenberger's picture
Michelle Strutzenberger

Michelle Strutzenberger has been a Generative Journalist and curator with Axiom News for more than 15 years.

She's most grateful for the incredible people she gets to work with every day at Axiom News, as well as the many other amazing folks she's encountered through this work.

"I have always seen the opportunity to do this work as a gift," she says.

Michelle's writing has also been published by a wide variety of other organizations and publications, including the following:
- Abundant Community, an initiative of authors John McKnight and Peter Block to awaken the power of families and neighbourhoods
- PLAN Institute, a network dedicated to enabling families to create a good life for people with disabilities
-.New Scoop YYC, Calgary's news co-op practicing Generative Journalism
- The Canadian Community Economic Development Network
- Nieuwmakers, a Belgian news agency
- Restore Commons, an initiative of Peter Block and friends
- Academy for Systemic Change

Contact Michelle: 705-741-4421 ext. 27 or michelle(at)

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