Over a three-day period in August 2009, 700 people gathered to co-create more than 20 individual initiatives that ranged from creating a robust local food system to creating sustainable energy systems. We set bold goals of engaging 1.6 million people towards creating this common vision of Cleveland’s future. By all measures this summit was ground breaking and a tremendous success. Using Appreciative Inquiry we discovered the strengths of Cleveland and our region, we dreamed the possibilities of the future, created designs and prototypes of how to realize this vision, and we made a commitment to work towards this shared destiny.

At the end of the summit Mayor Jackson told the crowd: “We have had opportunities like this before but did not do anything about it and we are now dealing with the negative consequences. That is not going to happen again.”

He then gave us all a task. “The real issue is how do we ensure success? And how do we stay focused and begin to channel the energy we have felt into post summit implementation?” His commitment was to be sure the City did its part by leading by example, being an advocate and voice for this vision of the future, creating policies to support a more sustainable economy, and hosting an annual summit each year to measure progress and to reinforce our commitment to this vision of the future.

Four years later, look how far we have come.  

  • We have policies, projects, entrepreneurs, and land in productive use in the City of Cleveland supporting the emergence of a robust and resilient local food economy.
  • We have come together as a region to create LEEDCo and develop an actionable plan to place wind turbines on Lake Erie.
  • We have created local and sustainable purchasing incentives at the City and more businesses are following suit with preferences towards local purchasing.
  • We are building separated bicycle and pedestrian access on the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge through the successful Access for All Campaign that emerged from the 2009 summit participants.
  • We have passed a green and complete streets ordinance and are expanding infrastructure throughout Cleveland to improve bicycle access.
  • We came together as a community to create a coordinated bicycle advocacy organization that has a seat at the table for our local policies with Bike Cleveland.
  • We attracted the International Public Markets Conference in celebration of the West Side Market’s 100 year anniversary during the year of local food.

And so much more…

Today and tomorrow we have the opportunity to come together again to recommit to building an economic engine to empower a green city on a blue lake. I wonder what ideas, successful businesses and projects will emerge?

Stay tuned to find out…

–Andrew Watterson