CLEVELAND, Ohio – Cleveland Rising had no shortage of ideas Wednesday, and by mid-afternoon those deemed most popular were given center stage at the summit.
Concepts included a reimagined transportation system designed around job sites, free Internet for all, more racially sensitive school curricula and a regional Northeast Ohio planning commission for more collaborative community planning.
Perhaps the biggest applause was registered when one of the presenting groups introduced the idea of a “Burke Central Park” instead of the lightly used Burke Lakefront Airport that exists today in downtown Cleveland.
The overarching purpose of the summit is to establish goals for creating a more vibrant and inclusive economy. The second day had several hundred participants break up into groups to focus on how themes can become a reality.
Summit facilitators took ideas generated on Tuesday and fashioned them into 21 “design opportunity areas,” (see below) listed on poster boards that participants clustered around Wednesday morning.
Brainstorming commenced, followed by “rapid prototyping,” in which teams used craft supplies such as markers and poster boards to create visual displays to convey their ideas.
“Today is going to be messy,” said David Cooperrider, a Case Western Reserve professor who co-designed the Appreciative Inquiry method of discussion being used during the summit, which ends at lunchtime on Thursday.
The ideas flowed. Universal employment, a $15 minimum wage, hubs at all public schools to ensure children have the necessary resources, one-stop shops to help minority entrepreneurs.
Many of the issues discussed were familiar, such as the need to attract and retain talent. Young people. Immigrants. Seniors. Boomerangs, those who used to live here and want to come back. That made for a lively discussion among some of the participants, who struggled to identify which group to focus on; they wanted to think about them all. One idea was to create a nationally recognized event in Cleveland to attract tourists. Another was to create a portal in multiple languages to help immigrants get connected.
But to bring some focus to the messy-by-design process, the teams were merged into six groups and asked to vote for those themes deemed most scalable — in other words capable of being expanded broadly across the community — and most inspirational to the larger group.
That led to the a mid-day presentations of visual displays and occasional antics, like when one presenter pretended to be Sherwin-Williams, the Cleveland-based paint company looking for a new headquarters.
One of the bolder ideas involved a redesign of Greater Cleveland’s transportation network. A team took Cleveland’s existing RTA routes and potential RTA routes, and imagined a multi-modal network that includes bus lines, rail lines, trails and bikes. Anything but a car. The routes would help connect the job hubs outside the urban core to the city.
“It’s not realistic to build a new rail line out to Solon, that’s not going to happen,” group member Isaac Robb said. “But we can look where our job centers are and connect them to the people in need of jobs.”
Another team focused on revitalizing neighborhoods without gentrification. The team recommended philanthropic support for new grocery stores and limiting suburban sprawl by taxing large, new homes and greenfield development beyond the city with the revenue to be used to deal with urban blight.
Bradford Davey, director of regional engagement for the Fund for Our Economic Future, suggested creating real estate investment trusts that would allow residents to collectively own property in their neighborhoods.
When it came time to talk about a more digitally connected community, one team said it wanted to make is possible for all students to actually do online homework from their homes.
Yet another team focused less on delivering a service and more on changing the hearts and minds of people. If the community does not deal with structural racism, the root cause of the region’s disparities, “all of this will be for nothing,” said one of the presenters.
There also was a call to action by one of the teams. It challenged the summit participants to take the message of the summit to their own individual networks and to come up with ways to promote the five values of Cleveland Rising – accountability, transparency, courage, love and equity.
Everyone was encourage to text “I accept the challenge” to #clerising.