A friend recently turned me on to a process called "Appreciative Inquiry." It's been used successfully by companies like Roadway in Akron and major organizations like the US Navy to revitalize and change, and it strikes me as something that might be useful to the community.
Its basic premise is this: The knowledge and skills we need to overcome our challenges are largely already in us.
The process begins by asking people what their best experiences relevant to some theme have been -- what their "peak moments" are, in the parlance. That gets them talking about a company, organization, or community's strengths -- a much stronger foundation to build upon than its weaknesses or problems. Then everyone — and it might be hundreds or thousands of people at a time (as with the Navy) — starts talking about what they'd like the organization, company, or community to be in, say, five years. In the next step, people list things that could be done to make that happen. They organize those into possible action plans, and then they ask the most important question: "What of these possibilities do YOU think is the so important that YOU are willing to work on it personally?"
There's follow-up of course, and a lot more detail into how you get it right, but those are the basics.
As I read this brief primer on the process, I felt very strongly that such a process could be revolutionary in Sandusky.
Here we are trying desperately to reinvent ourselves, but it doesn't seem like we've gone about it with too much collaboration. It really sort of seems like the city is only interested in a few big projects that are supposed to change everything — the marina district comes to mind. But I don't think that's how change really happens. Real change is the product of dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of little innovations perpetrated by all sorts of different people at all levels of an organization, company, or community.
And the willingness, the energy, and the ideas are out there. Look at Wendy Kromer, and Andrea and Cesare Avallone of Zinc Brasserie, or even Erik Anderson of Erik's Clothing for Men — and there are many others. All businesses downtown that are trying to have some part in building the vision of a vibrant downtown. Or look at this thread in our forums.
Yet, if you offered some sort of "community summit" to start this process, you've got to wonder, would anyone show up? It seems like anything like this, no matter how valuable, goes horribly unattended. Look at the Register's own Solutions forums. A really cool program (that I had nothing to do with) that I was proud of. But how many people actually showed up? One night, we had 150, but we averaged about 40...
But you've got to start somewhere, and 40's a start.If you're interested in more info, check out this website from Case Western Reserve, which largely pioneered the technique.