Category Archives: Core Change

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.

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.