Cincinnati CoreChange Summit Sparks Energy

Cincinnati CoreChange Summit Sparks Energy

Collaboration and new connections among high points for participants

CINCINNATI – As the third and final day of the city-wide CoreChange Summit in Cincinnati was wrapping up, participants began to reflect on the experience and how they will stay involved in the movement to build a new American city.

There were more than 700 people registered for the Feb. 17-19 summit, which used the strengths-based model of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) to co-create the city's future.

For participant Leslie Stevenson, a Cincinnati resident and AmeriCorps VISTA member serving at Gabriel’s Place, there was a “pleasant tension” during the summit.

  Participants report out dreams and images of Cincinnati in 2022 during the CoreChange Summit.
(Credit: Al Bell

“A lot of energy, a lot of hopefulness, and I would say optimism in a way that I haven’t heard people talk about Cincinnati. And yet there is tension, because this is definitely a workshop,” says Leslie, noting some people through knowledge or experience are better equipped to maximize on that.

Facilitated by AI thought leader and Case Western Reserve University professor David Cooperrider and senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and systems-thinking pioneer Peter Senge, the summit engaged attendees in AI's “4-D” cycle: discovery, dream, design and deliver.

During the design and deliver phases, working groups were set up from images of Cincinnati in 2022 that came to life during the dream stage. For example, there were groups focused on designing a strengths-based city, housing for the future, prevention-based health care and supporting young entrepreneurs.

Each group worked on a prototype, an aspiration statement, action plans and a time-line for their initiative.

Leslie says she sensed some timidity in the action planning, as tension arises while people discuss how to best turn dreams into reality.

She says the most energizing part was seeing the cross-sector affirmation to alleviate food deserts, which reflects the impetus of her work at Gabriel’s Place. 

“(Seeing) multiple groups that are talking about not only food efforts but about urban farming helped me realize what we’re doing is relevant and what we are doing is already adding momentum to initiatives people are really excited about seeing in Cincinnati.”

Naoric Curry, a 23-year-old Cincinnatian, learned about the summit through a friend and wanted to see what it was like. He describes it as a learning experience.

“It’s given me a chance to meet new people, to open up to new people and learn about things,” he says.

Jonathan Gagai, a research professional and Cincinnati resident, says seeing collaboration in action was the most energizing aspect of the summit.

“I work in research and I know the difficulties, the challenges with collaboration and you essentially have to make yourself very vulnerable and you have to break down your own conceptions of working with other people and (the summit) presented that environment,” says Jonathan.

“It was an amazing thing to see and to know that it can happen,” he says, noting it gave him something to implement in his life and work.

He says the most important thing to keep momentum from the summit is accountability. His working group has plans for a meeting in three weeks which will grow and show more structure around their vision.

Referring to the leadership and sentiments of Dr. Victor Garcia, who championed the summit, Jonathan says people need to go beyond doing what they can but do what needs to be done and find the resources, rely and trust in others, and hold one another responsible.

To help keep people engaged in this work, Leslie says having the community councils in Cincinnati's 52 neighbourhoods adopt a standing CoreChange report would graft routine conversations into existing structures.

She also suggests an e-newsletter that captures upcoming events and outflows from CoreChange, as well as a foundation to serve as a fiscal agent for philanthropy and dedicated staff.

One of the teams from the summit is looking at post-summit momentum and activities going forward.

To learn more about CoreChange visit this link. You can also follow the @corechangecincy and @cincysummit Twitter accounts, as well as like CoreChange on Facebook.

Axiom News is storying the CoreChange effort in Cincinnati, including people’s commitment to this, possibilities they see and what can be expected. To share your story, or provide feedback on this story, contact the newsroom at 705-741-4421 or e-mail jennifer(at)

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Jennifer Neutel

Jennifer Neutel is a Story Advocate and Generative Journalist at Axiom News. She completed her Bachelor of Journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa in 2006, and joined Axiom News in 2007. She has taken on a variety of roles at Axiom including new social media intiatives and has a passion for creating strengths-based questions that can lead to positive change.

Contact Jennifer:, or 705-741-4421 ext. 26.

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