Four Recent Ideas Cincinnati Has Exported Around the Country

New ideas can come from anywhere and Cincinnati is no exception. People have taken notice of what is going on in Cincinnati. In the spirit of the latest episode of The UrbanCincy Podcast, I thought it would be nice to highlight some ideas that worked so well in Cincinnati that other cities have adopted them.

However, it is important not to forget that great ideas often come from great turmoil. Innovative ideas often only receive the light of day because the situation they are created in is so dire. Keeping that in mind when reading this story can remind us of how far Cincinnati has come in some areas, and how that journey can inform efforts in other cities.

Here are four key ideas that have come from Cincinnati. This is by no means an exhaustive list, so please let us know in the comment section if you have other additions.

Idea 1 – Collective Impact
The concept of collective impact stems from the idea that numerous individual efforts are being undertaken in places to reach similar social goals. Thus, collective impact’s main role is to take those individual efforts and bring stakeholders together to increase the efficacy of each individual’s work around the organizing principal.

The Strive Partnership in Cincinnati was the first group to take this approach and develop a unique model that is now being applied around the country. With a focus on building what they call “cradle to career partnerships”, which seek to improve agreed upon outcomes for children throughout their growth to adults, collective impact is a truly national phenomenon.

Idea 2 – The Collaborative Agreement
In the wake of the killing of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson and the resulting protests and social unrest, many Cincinnatians could not help but think of the parallels to the killing of Timothy Thomas by Cincinnati police officer Stephen Roach.

Following the 2001 race riots in Cincinnati, a group of concerned community members and representatives from law enforcement came together around shared principles to improve community policing and engage with the stakeholder more in how they felt the department should function to simultaneously improve outcomes and relations with the communities where they work. This became the document known as the Collaborative Agreement, and is now considered a blueprint for conversations in Ferguson and beyond on how to begin creating a more inclusive environment for local residents regardless of their background.

Idea 3 – Community Learning Centers
The philosophy behind Community Learning Centers is straightforward: schools are neighborhood assets and should be utilized as such. Combine that philosophy with in-school wrap-around services that are funded in part through community relationships and you have a reproducible model for school improvement and neighborhood revitalization.

Community Learning Centers have latched on in New York City, where Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) has approved the creation of new community learning centers as a part of his educational platform, and within the Department of Education where a 21st Century Community Learning Centers program supports the creation of such setups around the country.

Idea 4 – 3CDC
Whether you agree with their tactics or not, it is hard to argue that the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation is not influential in the ongoing real estate redevelopment bonanza that is going on in and around Cincinnati’s center city. Perhaps not surprisingly, other cities have taken notice.

3CDC’s combination of non-profit status gives it independence, and its relationship with large local companies provides it with formidable financial resources. The potent combination has been labeled as a “model for urban transformation” by the Urban Land Institute, and other cities are considering adopting the 3CDC model that has accomplished a great amount in redeveloping socioeconomically depressed urban areas.

Connecting Cincinnati With What’s Happening ‘Inside The Beltway’

The dome of the United States Capitol, one of the most recognizable landmarks in our nation’s capital, is currently under construction. Scaffolding is draped against it, as the Capitol Dome is in the process of being restored. Many would argue that the scene of construction is an apt metaphor for what is happening in Congress today.

By many accounts, the Congress is broken—plagued by soaring partisanship, ineffective leadership, and near historically low levels of public approval. Despite all these things, the federal government is as important as ever to the well-being of states and municipalities.

Aside from the billions of dollars that make their way from the federal government’s coffers to localities each and every year, how does the federal government truly matter to the lives of people in Cincinnati? Washington is so far removed both physically and culturally from most of the country that many people feel both disconnected from and discouraged by the political process that they see as out of their control.

Many argue that the government that governs closest governs best, but that is not always the case, particularly when it comes to truly monumental issues. Besides the lack of fiscal capacity, states and municipalities are often strategically disincentivized to handle these issues alone.

This might include something like the replacement of the Brent Spence Bridge, which has stakeholders in Kentucky and Ohio in a tizzy over how to reach a solution to fortify one of the Cincinnati regional economy’s most important assets. It might also include issues that seem far away, like climate change. In this case, no one individual actor has the appropriate role or responsibility to deal with problems of such a large magnitude.

From many people we are one. And there may not be a better time than now to be reminded that what happens in the city along the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers has the potential to have a large effect on what goes on in a city along the banks of the Ohio River. Our government is a federalist system with power devolving from the top, and where even the smallest of decisions can have large and far-reaching implications.

Bruce Katz of Washington’s Brookings Institution, one of the city’s most venerable think tanks, has said on many occasions that “the cavalry (the federal government) is not coming…we (state and local governments) are on our own.” While I agree with his sentiment that there is much more that the federal government could be doing to help improve cities and regions.

In future writings I hope to illuminate some of the implications, both big and small, of federal action to show the power of decisions that happen in Washington matter for the places we call home. In addition, I hope to provide more of a data-informed perspective to the issues of the day in Cincinnati, and use this space as a platform to elevate the discussion around the importance of community-level data to better understand our regions, cities and neighborhoods.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Ben Robinson is a Cincinnati native that currently lives in Washington, DC, where he does not work for the federal government. He currently works as a data analyst for the Washington DC School System. As our new Washington correspondent, Ben will be covering topics from Capitol Hill for UrbanCincy as they relate to local issues and projects.

Ben is a graduate of Walnut Hills High School, and holds a BA in economics and urban studies from the University of Pittsburgh, and a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Southern California. In addition to Cincinnati and Washington DC, Ben has also lived in Los Angeles and Pittsburgh.

New Yorkers skeptical of proposed ferry network, but could it work here?

Almost exactly six years ago, UrbanCincy proposed a comprehensive water taxi network for Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Right now, New York City is looking at expanding and developing a comprehensive, city-wide ferry network. The idea has been proposed there before, but it is being met with skepticism due to a perceived inability to provide the much greater amounts of capacity that are needed there. More from Second Avenue Sagas:

Let’s stop to acknowledge that ferry service can be useful. It’s a complementary element of a robust transit network that can bridge awkward gaps…That said, no matter how many times politicians leap to embrace ferries, the same problems remain. It is, flat out, not a substitute for subway service and, because of the scale of ridership figures and planned routing, won’t help alleviate subway congestion. If it takes a few cars off the road, so much the better, but the mayor should be looking at high capacity solutions to the city’s mobility problems.