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.
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Michelle has been working with Axiom News for more than 10 years where she says she’s had an abundance of opportunity to try new things, bring her gifts to the table, connect with a host of incredible people worldwide and, perhaps most importantly, construct a whole new window out of which to see the world. “Working at Axiom News, I get to join in cultivating an emerging world story that I believe holds some of the greatest promise for the future of this planet,” says Michelle. “Threading through this alternative story are themes such as evolving from empire to deep democracy, from blaming and complaining to ownership and from problem solving to possibility-oriented thinking.” A question Michelle says she’s holding in tension for 2014 is: What place is there for news media in creating a space for people to act on what matters most?
For more than 13 years Axiom News has been able to interview and story many cutting-edge workplaces while at the same time trying out some of the ideas we run across in our own space. We’ve been especially interested in people who are playing around with creating an ecology for work that, at the risk of over-simplifying, “embraces our humanity.”
A fitful journey at Axiom News this past year has created just the sort of anxiety-ridden conditions for provoking new revelations. One of the most recent for me was that these could be some of the most exciting and painful times for knowledge workers yet.
In a recent video interview with the Canadian collaborative, Social Innovation Generation, John McKnight tells the story of the origins of asset-based community development and how it emerged out of his anger at the predominant research then being conducted on neighbourhoods, especially low-income neighbourhoods.
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