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ivoh | January 17, 2018

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What lessons do past glories hold for the recovery a city needs today?'

In a remarkable story today in Deadline Detroit, Bill McGraw contrasts Detroit’s currently grim reality with a week nearly 62 years ago when the city celebrated its 250th birthday and was hailed as, among other things, “brash, ingenious, emphatic and go-getting” (by TIME magazine, no less).

McGraw raises the key question: “If Detroit can decline so drastically in six decades, could it not stage a recovery of some sort over the next 60 years?”

Might the Appreciative Inquiry approach play a role in addressing such a question? Granted, AI is more commonly seen as a tool for organizations — as opposed to cities — to improve by focusing on what they do well as opposed to problems in their way. Would love to have a conversation with someone familiar with AI about the problem we focused on with Detroit143 last year: the city’s broken streetlight system. I wonder if some of what’s working well in Detroit’s burgeoning arts & entrepreneurial communities might suggest some successful ways of getting the city illuminated again.

And more generally, what lessons does history provide about what Detroit did right (in getting to where it was in 1951) that might be useful in charting its desperately needed recovery today?