Blog > Michelle Strutzenberger

Did Cincinnati Effort Set New Precedent?

More than 500 Cincinnati residents from many different walks of life gathered this past weekend in the grand ballroom of the Millennium Hotel on Fifth Street West for a kind of conversation that guaranteed has never taken place at such a scale in this city before.

As a participant, I felt I was living a kind of history I’d only read about, a story where courage and beauty in spirit prevail, the stuff of William Wilberforce’s legacy for instance.

I kept looking around the room awed by the bravery I felt must have been required for most of us to be there.

We had all most certainly given up something and/or overcome some kind of angst to attend this gathering that on one level promised nothing more than free food and really hard work.

Beyond the courage, the more I heard from people in one-on-one, group and whole-room discussions, the more I was moved by the beauty of the people in the room. There was a beauty in the gifts they were bringing  to the table, both from themselves and the sectors and areas they represent.

As those gifts were shared, and inspired by a certain line of questioning, another wave of beauty spilled out around the room as people talked about their dreams and thoughts on the greatest possibilities for the future.

There was Margaret, who told us about the Ohio Empowerment Coalition that creates opportunities for people diagnosed with mental illness to not just manage or even recover from their illnesses, but actually become peer leaders and help others along a similar journey.

Talk about a shift in what’s possible — people moving from the receiver to contributor position in the very context of their weaknesses. Perhaps less important but certainly noteworthy is that this program is proving not only to be less costly but more effective, and those in power are sitting up and taking notice. As a group we talked about the potential in this model for other chronic illnesses.

There was also Maria who told us about an emerging local, organic food co-op, inspired by the Mondragon co-op in Spain. She was passionate in sharing her dreams of being able to work in such a place of organizational democracy, and together we envisioned Cincinnati a haven of co-op activity in the future, where innovation and engaged workers are the norm.

And those are just two examples. This same sort of beauty was very clear in the whole-room sharing as well.

In the face of such beauty and courage at such a scale, all in one room, and also given the context of other challenges in the city of Cincinnati, the gathering truly did have what I felt must characterize an historic event for the city.

More than that, I felt it was not only another jewel to add to the line of best of humanity’s acts of courage, but very possibly the first of a new kind of courageous act – or at the very least the introduction of a kind that has not been predominant.

While of course all of humanity’s most renowned acts of courage are sparked and driven by a new vision, many of those visions – and not to discount them in any way because of this – are historically an inversion of the current reality – no slaves, women’s rights, civil rights, disability rights, the end of Apartheid.

Is it possible we’ve reached a new stage in humanity’s history with this Cincinnati effort?

Have many of those visions of an inverted reality been realized, and is the new task at hand to gather as citizens around a cause that is no longer predominantly about “no more of this” but to co-create a previously unimagined reality built on a new configuration of existing gifts, assets and resources?


Axiom News will be providing further coverage on the Cincinnati CoreChange summit. Check our Cincinnati page for updates soon.






Blogger Profile

Michelle Strutzenberger's picture

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)

Latest Blog

They are the needed pioneers of our time, those stepping out to hold space for community dialogue that embraces authentic connection, new possibilities and personal efficacy.

Trying to listen well — like striving to live healthy — can easily erode into a guilt-heavy, anxiety-stabbed experience.

An unfolding ‘a-ha’ about crafting stories that are truly generative

I’ve been struck by the hunting and claiming language cropping up in our conversations about our work as journalists and specifically Generative Journalists here at Axiom News recently.

On a foundation of friendship and trust, a small media makers’ circle decided to venture further into experiencing what we’d been flirting with for the past several months — the art and essence of Generative Journalism and the New Narrative Arts.

Listening in on a call last week, I had two of those belly-shiver moments where suddenly the future flashes open and one glimpses what could be. It truly is a flash, a second, maybe two, as if a bare wire zapped some intuition alive. And then things go dark. But the sense of having “seen” a possibility lingers on, like a scent after someone’s left the room.

From getting in state to illuminating new possibilities

After more than 12 years of aspiring to practice what we’ve come to call Generative Journalism, several elements have begun to take shape as integral to some of the best experiences of the work.

The Axiom News newsroom is celebrating with team member Lisa Bailey whose most recent stories represent a breakthrough in her approach to her work — and raise the bar for all of us.