Author Archives: Citizens for Civic Renewal

Executive Director of Citizens for Civic Renewal

Organic Yet Organized

One of the great challenges of citizen engagement is balancing the drive to get something done with the need to inspire maximum participation.  Fortunately, by combining traditional action research with principles from the Art of Hosting, facilitators can accommodate many citizen interests while producing tangible results.  Take a look at the following process developed by CCR: Community-Hosted Action Research.

There are three keys to the process:

  • The Calling.  Participants co-create and remain explicitly committed to a core “calling” for the work. The calling is general enough for everyone to buy-into, but specific enough to be inspiring.  An example would be “We are called to rebuild Cincinnati’s business districts across the city so that all citizens have access to walkable neighborhood services.”
  • Passions Become Priorities.  Rather than debate and identify “our three top priorities” in an isolated conference room, possible paths of action are collectively brainstormed and discussed, and then undertaken in the real world by whoever is inspired to do so. In other words, people’s passions become the priorities of the group.   This allows everyone to make a meaningful contribution. Importantly, action teams are encouraged to:
    1. Experiment with small, short-term steps to learn about and redesign their prototype over time rather than take the risk of designing a whole program without real-world insight (e.g. Obamacare);
    2. Continue to engage new people in the implementation/experimentation process–thus expanding participation even after work has started.
  • Co-Learning.  After a pre-determined period of time, action teams reconvene to report on their progress, insights and challenges.  The whole group then asks itself, “What have we learned from our collective efforts about the calling and how to achieve it?” Through small group dialog, feedback and harvesting, the whole group provides learning and data for the action teams to tweak their projects for a second experimental iteration.

When combined with proper relationship building and participative facilitation techniques, the commitment to the calling will hold a group together over time.  This gives the passion-driven projects a chance to organically evolve toward consensus on the most sustainable and effective projects.  In the end, most everyone will “buy-into” the final answer because they will have real-world experience around which to base their collective deliberation.

With so much talent and passion in our communities, why limit participation with top-down priorities when action research and co-learning will ultimately create better programs with greater participation?

Norwood Community Coalition Tackles Drug Abuse

Almost a year ago, Deb Robison, Director of Family and Student Service for Norwood Schools, asked CCR to help build a community coalition to combat drug and alcohol abuse.  Deb understood that though professionals needed to better integrate their services, the real progress would happen when the community became engaged in the work. 

CCR worked with the steering committee to design and facilitate two highly participative community summits attended by teens, parents, community organizations, police leaders, school board members, administrators, service providers and other concerned community members.  Those summits produced four community focus areas:

1.      Developing and promoting Norwood-based resources;

2.      Empowering the youth voice;

3.      Reclaiming public spaces through youth activities;

4.      Focusing services on prevention and education.

A key step forward was the youth-led summit, where student facilitators helped  9th graders brainstorm ideas for school, home and community that would help young people remain drug free.  They voted on their “Big Idea” and have begun work to implement that idea.  Their big idea is to create an in-school camp for ninth graders to give them the skills to remain drug free.  The Coalition for Drug Free Greater Cincinnati (CDFGC) awarded a grant to implement the students “Big Idea”, as well as another grant to implement other strategies derived from the summits.  

The coalition has also:

·         Developed and distributed a Norwood Resource Guide;

·         Developed and distributed a youth-created stay-drug-free magnet;

·         Held six Casual Conversations which were each attended by 10-16 local community members;

·         Participated in National Night Out;

·         Participated in several trainings and workshops;

·         Sent a team of people to the CDFGC Coalition Academy;

·         Trained several clergy with the Faith Based Toolkit;

·         Authored several articles for the local paper, the Norwood Star;

·         Helped pass the social host ordinance in Norwood;

·         Built a partnership with the schools and Health Department to pilot SBIRT screenings in grades 6-9.

What is actually most exciting, other than the work that is being accomplished, is the sense of connection that is developing among the steering committee and the community at large. It is exciting to see various committee members leading specific projects for the coalition, or volunteering for projects specific to their interests yet with the support of the whole group.  Not everyone attends every function of the coalition—and that is ok because each person on the steering committee has a valuable role. 

The community at large is also becoming more engaged in the work as well.  It seems like we have created the space for each person (steering committee or community member) to bring their gifts to the table to be used on behalf of reducing drug and alcohol abuse in Norwood.  It is my opinion that we have such a great foundation because of the work with did with CCR early in the process.  It allowed us to think differently about how we would approach the work and honor each other’s talents.  To be ok with some projects rising to the surface and others falling away if no one was interested in leading them.  CCR helped us to be organic and organized at the same time.

By Deb Robison

Facilitation Training for Public Leaders

The Facilitation Leadership Paradigm

Sustained organizational change happens through the ongoing collaboration of leadership and their constituents.  But facilitating such collaboration is a skill few leaders possess; most are content experts who have risen to management positions (e.g. teachers becoming principals).  CCR’s facilitation leadership training helps public-facing professionals engage staff and community stakeholders in processes that drive change while building the culture of collaboration essential to sustain it.

Performance Training

While traditional training provides isolated learning that is seen as the end product, CCR’s performance training helps participants transfer learning directly to their work.  Participants first identify their performance needs and the real challenges through which learning can be applied and measured.  Over time, these applications animate the structured training, personalized coaching, and peer-to-peer debriefing that form the backbone of the learning process.  Most importantly, by collaborating to deliver the training, leaders learn to empower team-driven change, participants become responsible for their own improvement, and both begin to model the culture necessary for any change.

Training as Culture Change A collaborative culture is the foundation of sustained organizational learning and change.  CCR’s facilitation leadership training can help build that culture by bringing leaders and their constituents together to collaboratively:

  1. Implement a pre-determined, organization-wide change initiative;
  2. Create a new, organization-wide effort;
  3. Learn facilitation skills that participants apply to their specific unit-level challenges.

Regardless of the context, participants will learn and experience the art and science of working together—leadership skills that can be applied to any collective effort. 

Process Outline

Training design

  1. Interview team members to map team culture, organizational obstacles, and performance baselines;
  2. Form a diverse participant “design team” to review baselines and build training possibilities;
  3. Facilitate whole-team meetings to adjust training outputs/outcomes and build team ownership;
  4. Address and heal team culture as needed before beginning structured training modules;­­­­­­­­

Iterative learning

  1. Conduct structured training—usually quarterly—to convey key principles and frame coaching process;
  2. Ongoing coaching of participants to apply training principles to real-time meeting design and facilitation;
  3. Facilitate a community-of-practice to inspire co-learning, review training program, and sustain change.

Quarterly Training Modules

  1. The facilitation leadership paradigm; human skills identification and development
  2. Meeting preparation one: the design team, deep purposes, harvest and action planning
  3. Meeting preparation two: agenda planning—time, space, engagement, group-reflection
  4. Stand-up skills: managing individual emotions, group dynamics, and creative content

Contact to discuss how facilitation leadership can immediately impact your work.  Using our action learning model, we will tailor your training to help you achieve a specific goal or problem.

CCR Trains Lakota Principals in Collaborative Meeting Facilitation

With the success of the community conversation process (click here for more details), Lakota Local Schools superintendent Dr. Karen Mantia has asked CCR to train their principals in collaborative meeting facilitation.

For ten years, CCR executive director Jeffrey Stec has facilitated community dialog, lead non-profit strategic planning, and traveled the country teaching continuing legal education courses in “collaborative negotiation”, which marries theory from communication psychology to group facilitation skills. By combining these experiences, CCR offers an integrated facilitation model for building teams, inspiring ideas, and reaching consensus–exactly what is necessary to re-invigorate staff or community meetings.  And because people commit to what they co-create, individuals hold themselves accountable for actions planned during the process.

With two of four three-hour training sessions complete, reviews from from participants and sponsors alike have been fantastic.  Most stress how the training is real-world ready — any meeting, whether public or private, can benefit from increased participation, empathy, and creativity — and all see the organizational benefit that collaborative processes bring to meetings.

As the training moves forward and evolves to include real-time coaching during public engagement, we will see how principals using collaborative meeting facilitation can help change the tone of the community conversation around education.

Citizens’ Budget Committee Officially Moves Forward

As part of its ongoing effort to include citizens in the budget process, the City of Cincinnati is working with CCR to build a citizens’ budget committee, a team of administrators and citizens who will explore how citizens can best partner with City leadership on budget issues.
Once fully formed, the committee of 18-24 people will conduct experiments in engaging the broader community with all of government (from City Council to department directors to street-level workers) on various issues. These experiments will provide experience and data that will help the City design a formal citizen engagement process for setting the 2015/16 biennial budget. (Of course, the Priority Based Budgeting process already forms a plank in the City’s engagement platform.)
Indeed, research for the committee has already begun: CCR helped the City facilitate two update and feedback sessions on Priority Based Budgeting (one in October and at again at the recent Neighborhood Summit). There we received deep citizen feedback to the question “Where does citizen engagement on budgeting go from here?”.  This information will be used as the launching pad for initial discussions and experiments.

If you are interested in participating, please  While committee membership is limited, everyone will be able to participate in committee activities.

Children’s Hospital Injury Prevention Summit

Even when you are as big as Children’s Hospital, public health initiatives cannot succeed without broad community support and action.  

Wisely, Max Warner, Program Manager of the Comprehensive Children’s Injury Center, knew that a hospital facilitated community summit would send the wrong message–that the big institution was coming to save your community’s children from preventable injuries in households and on the streets.  While Max obviously believes the hospital should play a role, he sees the resources offered by Children’s as tools to be utilized BY communities and citizens, not projects to be done TO them.

CCR helped Max design and facilitate a summit that allowed citizens to voice their priorities, but also put the responsibility on citizens to utilize what Children’s was offering–information, resources, and connections to help them build safe communities.  For those concerned with home safety,  Children’s can offer a “home safety day” kit that can be brought to any community.  For those worried about kids on bikes, free helmets and classes are available. But both are available only if the community steps up and makes it happen.

The self-organizing meeting design CCR facilitated has led to a second summit, 6 action teams, and a set of leaders ready to build this movement by keeping communities and issues interconnected for group learning and relationship building, the keys to long-term community capacity.

Norwood Drug/Alcohol Abuse Coalition

With so much effort being poured into drug and alcohol abuse issues, professionals and community members alike are wondering why there is still such a problem.  Their solution:  work across professional and community boundaries to figure out what we can do together that we can’t do alone?

The first step was for Deb Robison, a Norwood Schools social worker, to build relationships with other key community stakeholders:  the police, the health department, other professionals and several churches.  With a core group of about 10 committed to collaboration–especially with the community–they set to work on designing a community summit that would energize community partnerships to combat drug and alcohol abuse.

At that point Deb contacted CCR, who helped them design and facilitate a powerful meeting.  First off, the information content focused on surprise and stories–and less of the traditional data about the problem we all know so well.  Second, we broke into 8 groups of 8-9 diverse people to “map” on story boards the current efforts at combating abuse in Norwood.  The goal was to see “what is” so that the gaps–and possible partnerships–would become obvious.

But before people went to work on dissecting the map and making suggestions, we conducted an interactive fishbowl with teens in recovery from abuse.  Their heart-breaking stories shed light on how the community might complement its current efforts with more peer-to-peer models of teen empowerment and more effort into identifying problem parents before they trigger drug abuse in their own children.

With that emotional and tactical grounding, the small groups did in fact identify necessary shifts and synergies that would help them accomplish more together than just the sum total of their individual efforts.  Putting more effort into prevention, and providing more community-based connections for both children and adults, were identified as key strategies.  From here, the group will keep engaging more constituents around those topics that participants identify as critical–with a central steering committee organized to support these myriad efforts.

What Can Citizens Do for You? An Invitation to City Managers

Citizens are noisy complainers crashing budget hearings with vociferous opinions without context and merit.   They demand that government keep the programs important to them, but not programs used by others.  What an uninformed and self-centered lot!

Or are they?  Maybe citizens are simply playing the hand they are dealt—packing two minutes of testimony with reactions to a budget developed after months of analysis and closed-door discussions by government leaders.  Wouldn’t you show some signs of strain under such circumstances?

By engaging citizens much earlier in the budget process, we could dramatically end these late-game anxieties and the leadership backlash that inevitably follows.  Management experts have found that employees “own” solutions for problems they help identify and solve; why not use a similar model with citizens?  Rather than presenting citizens with a budget solution, we could offer budget data—and let citizens identify the problem for themselves.

Once clear about the problem, citizens usually offer a wealth of possible solutions.  And rather than reject them out of hand due to obvious flaws, leaders could systematically listen to citizens, compile the options, and return with a comprehensive analysis—pros and cons, but no final judgment of—the major ideas.  Once again, leadership would provide the data upon which decisions can be made by citizens.

By framing the role of government leadership as citizen-solution facilitation, we invert the process, put citizens in charge, and let them struggle with the decisions government deals with every day.  Applying this model to day-to-day decisions would be a waste of time, but as budget pressures lead to major cuts in service, the facilitation-leadership paradigm offers many benefits:

  • Citizens empathize with leadership—they confront the tough decisions you deal with every day, every year, and finally understand that you can’t just _______ and solve the problem;
  • Citizens are forced to take responsibility for budget decisions—no more blaming government leaders for the mess we are in, they have to step up;
  • Creative options emerge—responsible citizens, empowered to solve problems, are motivated to keep the programs they want and will find ways to compromise that leadership might not;
  • Leadership has increased support to make tough decisions—citizens identified, debated, and chose the solution, so they are more likely to “buy into it”;
  • Citizen volunteerism increases—if we look at “resources” more broadly, and enough time is given, citizens are more likely to offer their own time and energy in order to maintain the benefits of government service.

In the end, despite our best efforts to build citizen-based solutions, leadership will still need to make a decision on many issues.  But the process of listening to citizens frame problems and create options will always generate good will toward government leaders.  If the process is done right (especially lots of small group dialog), this process puts an empathetic face on government:  we are here to listen, understand, and help you work through this challenge.  Over time the citizen-government relationship deepens, trust builds, and collaboration becomes part of the community’s culture.  As anyone with teenage children has found, a good working partnership is tough to build, but pays dividends over a lifetime.

Lakota Reaches Out

I read with great interest how school superintendents are reaching out to their constituents.  This is a great trend, but structuring these “informal” conversations is not easy.  I have designed and facilitated the process with Lakota Schools, and we have spent much time with a core team of leaders recruiting community “hosts”, designing the conversations to be productive despite the informality, and figuring out what to do with the information we systematically collect.  Without such thoughtfulness and professional facilitation, these conversations can quickly become complaint sessions, get caught in tangential issues or worse, go nowhere.  Because citizens feel burned when given lip service, or if they can’t see how their input made a difference, these conversations must become part of a comprehensive engagement process that leads to an ongoing partnership between citizens and the school district.

The deeper question that these efforts seek to address is whether there is still a public for public schools.  Beyond the standard quid pro quo of levy campaigns—I pay for good schools so my property values stay high—most non-parents don’t have a clear reason for supporting public education.  Long ago, Americans pioneered public education so citizens were educated enough to govern our fledgling democracy.  The Kettering Foundation has found that Americans generally don’t see how schools serve a larger public purpose—primarily because most people, especially those in well-off suburbs, don’t have a sense of what they are working toward as a community.  Dr. David Mathews, CEO of the Kettering Foundation, argues that public schools will struggle for support until communities find a sense of collective purpose.

Public schools, however, can play a leading role in helping communities find common purpose.  Because people are educated in many ways outside of school—the distinction between “schooling” and “education”—school districts can engage the community in defining the role of community in educating not only children, but the whole community.  By convening churches, businesses, and non-profits around the idea of “community education”, school districts not only identify how the community can complement traditional schooling, but they begin to create a collective identity and purpose in traditionally fragmented communities.

By forging a true, ongoing, educational partnership between community and schools, these superintendents might inspire communities to identify and work collaboratively toward true public purposes, answering a question so rarely asked in America today:  What are we trying to accomplish by living together in this community?

Lakota Schools Community Conversation

What type of education do our children need to succeed in the 21st century?  That is the question being posed to West Chester and Liberty township  community members in a broad effort to engage the community in defining the future of local education.

After years of toxic deliberation over school levies, the new superintendent, Dr. Karen Mantia, realized that a new conversation was needed to change the relationship between the community and the district.  So rather than fight about “how” to deliver the best education (i.e. how much money to spend), the district began working with CCR to build a long-term partnership with the community to define “what” kids need to succeed in the 21st Century.  This is the classic strategic planning approach, but applied to the far-messier realm of community-government dialog.

The first challenge was identifying the “publics” that need to be engaged.  How would we find them?  What was the invitation?    First we developed a community-mosaic so we could literally picture the great diversity in this community of 100,000.  Then we identified network leaders who were invited to “host” a community conversation with their constituents.  From low-income housing communities to the Chamber of Commerce, political groups and minority networks, we have stretched to find as many voices as possible.  Most conversations were held in the homes of community members, though businesses, churches, and non-profits have also stepped up.  Community members have currently hosted over 40 conversations with an average attendance of 23–the power of the personal invitation at work.

Importantly, these conversations were structured for both relationship building and content feedback using small group dialog and questions tailored to elicit what people value most, not just their complaints.  By asking attendees to tell a personal story about the challenges confronting education, we tapped the communities deepest fears around the future.  By asking for future “headlines” declaring success in retooling education, we found goals that would inspire, not just a checklist.

Forty conversations and 800 voices later, we were astounded to find that despite vast differences in background (one session was attended by people from over a dozen countries), political bias, or socio-economic status, community  members agree on at least 80% of what the future of education should look like:

  • Grow the whole child and help them find their unique path;
  • Teach the skills necessary to apply their education to the real world (communication, creativity, collaboration, critical thinking);
  • Provide hands-on, experiential opportunities;
  • Connect kids to the community and the community to the schools.

This information now forms the basis of a strategic planning process that will define “how” to achieve these goals.  Once complete, the next step is to engage the community (through a set of citizen stewards) in implementing the plan, both within the school and in the broader community (click here to read about the critical but complementary distinction between “schooling” and “community education”).

Lakota is cutting a  pioneering path to bring public education back to the people–and it’s working.  One community member who has moved her children out of the district said, “If I can be part of a movement like this, I will bring my children back to Lakota.”  It really does show that people are yearning for communal efforts in a time of deep social separation–and that the public schools can lead the way to greater community involvement in public life.

What’s Up with Core Change

The Core Change Summit was a big success back in February, generating around twenty grass-roots work groups committed to healing the urban core by working with our strengths.  These work groups are still meeting and getting things done in varying degrees, but many are wondering what is happening behind the scenes.  Here is a look at this fascinating exercise in group facilitation.

The core team has put in place a basic support structure (team leaders, training opportunities, communication systems) to keep the work groups moving, but the lack of a clear post-summit leadership structure has somewhat limited the growth of the movement.  For example, many months have past without:  a gathering to reunite those inspired by the summit; a system for detailed inter-work-group communication and learning; and a plan for engaging those key stakeholders who did not attend the summit in sufficient numbers (like government, big business, and large institutions).

The challenge confronting the core team is creating a governing structure that continues to inspire organic participation while providing the power of coordinated action.  Organic structures allow for greater participation; tighter  structures get more done.  How Core Change balances this tension will determine the nature of  this movement.

With no clear criteria for who becomes a core team member, no on-boarding of new core team members, and no structure to handle post-summit work (an explicit decision many have come to regret), the core team is under great pressure to quickly devise a structure that catches up to the momentum created at the summit.  Without these structures, many worry that the work groups are becoming just another layer of social programming rather than part of a  “whole system” change.

Ironically, the biggest challenge seems to be tension among core team members.  While everyone has good intentions, there are too many cooks in the facilitation kitchen arguing over the best process for managing the movement.   The trust required for this work was missing when the core team reconvened after the summit.  And like most groups, the core team became engulfed by the work before building a sufficient relational foundation to handle the challenges.

The post-summit struggles of Core Change reminds us all that 1) some structure  and pre-planning is necessary to get things done, and 2) connection must always come before content at each new level of development.  How the core team addresses these issues while attending to the needs of the work groups is an experiment that bears watching.

Evaluating the priority-budgeting process

As most of you know, the City of Cincinnati conducted a priority-based budgeting process this year.  From CCR’s perspective, here is what worked and what could be improved.

What Worked

  • Promotion.  Emails were flying around town promoting the process, the media played a part, and City Council stood behind the work.  Nice job creating buzz for such a tough subject.
  • Hosting.  The city held many engagement events across the city hosted by various civic networks.  Great job getting to the people and offering many opportunities to show up.
  • Feedback.  The dialog sessions were wide-open to about any feedback you could think of, and the city provided web-based mechanisms to hear from those who couldn’t attend a live session.  People felt heard.
  • Scope.  The process rightly focused on the big-picture–what we value as citizens–rather than micro-managing the city administration.
  • Relevance.  After ranking citizen priorities, every city department prioritized their work based on the values identified by citizens.  The process asked administration leaders to look at their programs in a different way, always a good thing.  Moreover, these rankings will find their way to City Council during budget-setting.

What Didn’t Work

  • Citizen responsibility.  The hard work–prioritizing programs–was done by city leaders.  Citizens got a free pass to voice their opinions without having to make any hard decisions.  These days (and for the foreseeable future), budgeting is about deciding what you can do without, or increasing taxes to pay for it.  For example, we can’t have the police and fire services we expect and great roads, neighborhood business districts, health centers, parks, recreation, etc.  Forcing citizens to make clear, difficult choices is the only way to create a “structurally balanced budget” and the city we envision in Plan Cincinnati.
  • Reliance on Council.  Though citizens voiced their opinion and the administration supplied their analysis, City Council has yet to show their ability to face difficult facts in a reasoned way.  This particular council is not particularly at fault, however:  elected officials generally set budgets to get re-elected rather than do the right thing.  This  makes their public  debate mere posturing, forcing the back-room deals that devalue citizen input.   The public deserves to see City Council fairly debate the merits of the budget.
  • Public debate.  This process provided for no public debate or any mechanism for citizens to participate in a meaningful way when the budget is actually set.  Public hearings are almost useless–two minutes of testimony only leads citizens to shout louder and take more extreme positions.  Until citizens deliberate real choices presented to them by Council in November or December, all of this will be for naught.

Core Change–What’s Next?

The Core Change Summit was a huge success at engaging citizens (over 500 people attended), inspiring new relationships (the room was as inclusive as any gathering ever held in Cincinnati), and generating new ideas for transforming our communities from the bottom up (almost twenty work groups developed “rapid prototypes” for action).  The question now is whether this energy can be sustained and transformed into the kind of “whole systems” change promised by Core Change leaders.

Attendees overwhelmingly found the summit to be powerful and inspiring.  The focus on appreciative inquiry, engaging all voices in small groups, and great (but overly long) learning modules provided most people with a new, more satisfying way of approaching community issues.  Many work groups have already began meeting to implement their prototypes, and all made commitments to build on the summit’s momentum.

For some, one frustration came from the general absence of “traditional powers”–the City of Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Business Committee, large institutions and foundations, etc.  Implementing change will be more challenging without subject matter experts, financial power, and government/institutional structures.  Indeed, the purpose of convening “whole community systems” is to co-create solutions not possible within a single sector.

In other words, a major promise of Core Change remains largely unfulfilled:  truly engaging the whole system to work together on the urban core. For the great energy of the summit to grow and thrive, we all must contribute our gifts to 1) continue to gather people, especially newcomers, in the spirit of the summit, 2) interconnect the evolving initiatives, story lines, and learning, and 3) design and facilitate settings “that connect the grass roots with the grass tops” in a way that meets the needs of all stakeholders.  With a collective commitment along these lines, the summit will have indeed shifted the core of our City.

Member Meeting

CCR will be hosting an open-to-the-public members meeting Wednesday, April 4th, from 6-8:30 p.m. at Aquarius Star Cafe in the Clifton Gaslight District (free to non-members, including coffee/tea, and light appetizers; five dollar suggested donation for non-members).  To support efforts to engage more citizens in public life, every quarterly member meeting will:

  • Connect by sharing personal stories of civic engagement;
  • Learn a civic engagement skill;
  • Improve the community by identifying:
    • A hot community issue that needs CCR-facilitated public deliberation (the next deliberation event is May 10);
    • A key civic project that CCR and its membership should address by engaging citizens;
    • What you want to learn at future events, courses, and newsletters.

Our member meetings are the place we come together to figure out how we can collectively inspire people to get off the couch and step into communal life.  Please join us April 4th and help us see what’s possible.

Form-based codes–a picture of the future

Citizens should attend some part of Roxanne Quall’s form-based code charrette process April 28-May 2 (click here for more details).  This charrette will help transform our city building codes from highly technical quagmires into ideal pictures of what we want the city and our neighborhoods to look like.  The old codes were difficult to navigate and often lead to development out of character with the surrounding neighborhood.  Form-based codes will make development easier, as the code will help new development look like the surrounding neighborhood (the “form” around the development).
At this charrette, citizens will get to paint the picture (the form) that we want see across the entire city.  Roxanne is heavily promoting this process, and many civic leaders will likely attend.  The only question is whether enough “regular” people will come so that the “form” we paint truly reflects the broader community.  This concern might be addressed as the process moves forward, and each neighborhood gets to paint its own picture for what they want their neighborhood to look like–and what the form-based building code would help developers create.  Hopefully this process will help engage residents in community building work who aren’t usually interested in solving problems like poverty, crime, etc.–it all depends on how the city frames the conversation and markets it to average citizens.
Of course, a new building code doesn’t actually create new development–it just makes that development easier and more in character with the current neighborhood.  One of the real opportunities, then, is marketing the completed form-based codes as lifestyle opportunities.  If people know how a given neighborhood wants to evolve, they might be interested in living there to help make it happen.  Again, this will require a level of commitment to grass-roots marketing and engagement that the city doesn’t usually take on (something that has limited the impact of the comprehensive planning process).
But regardless of future possibilities, everything starts with these city-wide charrettes.  Roxanne is on the right track and form-based codes will be a huge help to improving our neighborhoods.  So please participate in any way if you can.

CCR continues to build young leaders, teaches two UC DAAP planning classes

Young leaders are critical to our future, and CCR is doing its part to teach a new model of community leadership based on the facilitation of collective insight rather than promotion of political answers.
In January, CCR taught two Department of Planning classes at UC.  The first focused on the principles and techniques of community-based leadership facilitation.  The second discussed the role of citizens in setting municipal budgets.  The students (long with Prof. Marisa Zapata and Prof. Beth Honadle) all found the material essential learning for anyone wanting citizens to take the lead in transforming our collective future.
If you would like CCR to help you or other leaders learn these or other leadership skills, please contact CCR director Jeffrey Stec at

Citizens define community policing strategies

The CCR annual meeting was designed to inform Cheif Craig’s community policing efforts by having small groups of citizens and police officer answer the following question:  How can citizens partner with CPD to co-create public safety?  Here is what 65 people and eight officers came up with…

  • Police should use:
    • Smaller neighborhood units (block-level rather than just district-level);
    • Informal networks (not just community councils and presidents of civic organizations);
    • Fun and social interactions (not just formal strategy sessions);
    • Increased walking patrols
    • Continuity with neighborhood officers, including the mentoring of younger officers in community relationship building.
  • Citizens need to:
    • Mobilize themselves in smaller units through informal networks and social interaction;
    • Better know their neighbors;
    • Take care of their own “door-step”;
    • Reach out to the police to:
      • Mentor new officers and teach them the neighborhood;
      • Learn about policing practices;
      • Engage different people in different ways (especially young people, renters).

This information was forwarded to Chief Craig and his community policing team.  CCR will continue to work with CPD to maximize the effectiveness of community policing, which can only be achieved if citizens have a voice in defining its structure and implementation.    If you are interested in helping with CCR’s effort to bring deeper citizen engagement to CPD, please email CCR’s director Jeffrey Stec at


CCR helps build relationship between cab drivers, police

CCR has been working with Cincinnati police on community engagement efforts.  In addition to advising Chief Craig (along with other civic leaders) on the formation of a Citizens-Police Advisory Board, CCR facilitated a forum for cab drivers to discuss their concerns and build a more productive relationship with the Cincinnati police.


For example, the ordinance change that allows people to hail and exit cabs outside of cab stands has created tension between police and cab drivers over the interpretation of the “without blocking traffic” requirement.  CCR’s facilitation created a positive atmosphere even while cab drivers aired their frustrations.  In the end, cab drivers felt heard, police began building a new relationship with cab drivers, and the big issues were identified for further discussion.  CCR will continue to work with police on issues that can benefit from increased public participation.