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Here are just a few of the subjects we touched on during Friday night’s conversation. Please feel free to add your two cents in the comments!

A grocery store for downtown: Local developer Doug, whose company reps retail operations such as Target and Trader Joe’s, says that there just is not enough of a demand for a grocery store in downtown Cincinnati – yet. Any potential grocery store is going to have certain needs, including parking and, crucially, enough business to keep the operation profitable.

Our (perceived) savior, the streetcar: There was near-unanimous approval for the streetcar plans, with the only real reservation coming from (what are the odds?) me. As I put it on Friday: “People try to justify this project by saying that ‘nobody’ rides the bus because it’s seen as being for poor people. I’ve yet to hear a cogent argument for catering to bigots with taxpayer money.” (And I say this as a car-free downtowner who rides the bus.) I’m not against the streetcar, per se, but I am suspicious of the urge to shut down debate about its necessity which I and others have observed at both social events and city press conferences about the project.

Financial literacy for Cincinnatians: I took a quick poll around the room, asking, “Who taught you about money? And did they teach you well?” Most people said that nobody taught them about money. (My take: Just as with sex education, if nobody addressed it, then your parents actually taught you through their silence that it isn’t important.) We also agreed that it’s not just inner-city kids who desperately need to be fiscally informed, but people of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. I related a bit about the amazing Operation HOPE programs across the country and world, and someone mentioned Smart Money working in Cincinnati (from their website, it doesn’t look like there’s much going on there). I have actually been in contact with Operation HOPE founder and chairman John Bryant about bringing their programs to Cincinnati. Would this just be duplicating Smart Money’s work?

Cincinnati area geography as selling point: This doesn’t get mentioned very often, but several people in our group talked about how the surrounding hills and woods of the area are such a huge bonus to living here. Detroit transplant Jeff Stec said that, when he moved to Cincinnati, the area seemed almost cupped by the hills in a very welcoming way. Is enough being made of this in trying to attract new residents? Many who have never been to Ohio may think of it as primarily a flat, industrial landscape or a boring, mostly rural state.

Downtowners/OTR residents perpetuating negative stereotypes?: Naz and I talked about the fact that some people smugly talk about living downtown or in Over-the-Rhine as if it requires some great sacrifice on their part. These people can unwittingly legitimize the ridiculous view that some outsiders have of these areas – that they are ultra-dangerous, crime-ridden holes that nobody but white liberal guilt indulgers would call home.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten some stuff – if you were there and want to remind us, go ahead and do so in the comments!

Here are some lessons learned and questions raised (in addition to all the topics we covered!) after Friday night’s dry-run:

1) The sleepover idea is probably less suited to Cincinnati than to, say, San Francisco or other large metropolis. Here, people live close enough to walk or drive home, so it’s not like they’d have to navigate BART or other hassle in order to get to and from the event.

2) Not many people seem keyed-up to attend an event unless they know an agenda in advance. Some said that this is “a Cincinnati thing”. If so, perhaps the choice needs to be made between more people and pre-planned objectives for the event OR a small group of more possibility-driven people willing to drive the agenda themselves. I don’t think one is necessarily better than the other, but trying to be both might lead to some headaches and disappointments.

3) Some people are talking about doing a slickly marketed, party-like event (flashy logos, ‘hot’ image, fire-eaters and a live band, etc). In that case, the challenge might be trying to have a conversation within that, and producing a gathering that’s not just a clone of so many other events. What I like about the direction this idea looks to is that it suggests doing cool stuff, and letting the informal social networks blossom around those activities. I’ve seen this happen with my Cincinnati Salon and Cincinnati Supper Club: People show up to hear and talk about a given topic, or to have some dinner, and end up making new friendships and creating new value in unpredictable and wonderful ways.

The question then becomes: What cool stuff are we to do that takes us beyond talking but still stimulates that ongoing conversation and local action?

Big thanks to all who took a chance on the unknown and came out on a Friday night to make things so worthwhile!

We’re going to kick off at 7PM at 1212 Sycamore Street (Jeff Stec’s offices for Inspired Community Change) and go right through the night with brainstorming, discussion, and who knows what else. It’s all up to those who show up!

If you can only stop by for a portion of the night, we’d love to have you! If you’re spending the night, please bring whatever you need to sleep comfortably. Jeff has an immaculate bathroom for freshening up, too. Drinks and snacks to share would also be appreciated (alcohol is allowed!). Email or call me for more information if you need it.

Apologies for taking so long to get this confirmed: I just heard back from Jeff Stec and raced over here to say that we are going to go for the June 22nd/23rd weekend. It was a fool’s dream to imagine we could find a date that worked for everyone we wanted to be present, so it came down to biting the bullet and just doing it. For those of you who can’t join us this time, you will be missed, and I will come up with a way for you to contribute your ideas to the event.

More specific details re timings to follow – I think we all agreed that it would be good to give people time to go home from work on Friday evening, freshen up and grab their stuff, and then come to the event, so we’d be looking at gathering from around 7.30 onward, I believe. Firm details to follow a lot more swiftly than this date decision did.

Jeff and I have narrowed down the dates to Friday June 22nd and Saturday June 23rd (to finish on Saturday morning). Please indicate in the comments if this is impossible for you or if you would be able to attend on this proposed weekend. We’re hoping to get a date agreed and finalized ASAP, so speak now or forever hold your peace!

I’ve already sent out email to this effect, but in the interest of plugging all holes: Tonight’s meeting is off, as it is not really necessary. Jeff and I are going to come up with a brief list of volunteer needs and three proposed dates for the event, which we will put out to you for voting.

Also, going forward, we’re going to put all information and updates on the blog, so as not to create confusion. Everything will be in one central, archived, searchable place:
https://cincyallsorts.wordpress.com – hopefully this will make
communication easier and avoid talking at cross-purposes. Jeff has invested much time and energy in communicating with this group, and putting everything on the blog should make that information more accessible.

It begins

Last week and yesterday, a core group of us met to take the overnight event idea further – and that’s exactly what we did. In short, we decided to…just do it. “Just do what?” you ask.

* We will hold a kick-off overnighter as soon as we can (Jeff Stec and I are going to pick a date before the end of this week, so NOW is the time to tell us when you can or cannot make it!).

* This first run will be a learning experience for us all – in addition to being a lot of fun – and allow us to get going without the pressure of pulling off The Event of The Millenium.

* We’ll follow this kick-off event with quarterly overnighters. Once per quarter seems to be a timing structure that everyone can get on board with – not too frequent, but frequent enough that if you can’t make this one, you can probably make the next one.

* While being laidback and with an agenda created and driven by participants, there will be a definite structure within which all this freedom and chaos will operate. We’ll start with some informal introductions and conversation starters, then move right into the open space portion of the night. And while casual-but-intense is the vibe, the intense part means that there will be plenty of opportunities for relaxation.

* Instead of putting a load of time, energy, and resources into getting sponsorship for food and drinks, we’re going to go with potluck provisions – at least for this first event. If those aren’t adequate to see us through the night, we’ll have some pizzas delivered when the sound of growling stomachs gets too distracting. Beer and wine will also be more than welcome.

* We’re not going to get bogged down in trying to predict outcomes or set goals for this event. The only concrete aim is to get people connecting and creating value, as individuals and in whatever groups may form on the back of the ideas germinated during the course of the event. Think of it as a party with purpose.

* It’s important to get the wording right for the invitations we send to people for this event. I would add here that it’s crucial to send personalized invitations – no eVites or form letters, which are far too close to spam for comfort. But here’s a loose template that you can play with and edit as you see fit (additional ideas welcome – leave them in the comments to this post, please!):

Is there something missing in your Cincinnati? Are there experiences and resources you wish we all had at our fingertips, but don’t know where to start in making them a reality?

You’re not alone.

That’s why we, a motley crew of area residents, are coming together on [date] for an informal but intense overnight party with a purpose. Share your ideas, find out what other people are doing, spark debate, and make the connections to make your vision of Cincinnati a reality. The only thing you have to fear is forgetting your toothbrush.

* We will meet again on Wednesday, May 9, at 1212 Sycamore Street to finalize the date for the first event and get rolling on logistical planning.

Hot damn, I’m excited.