In November of 2000, Steven Litt, the Plain Dealer’s Art and
Architecture critic authored a five-part series entitled “The Forgotten
Valley.” In that series, Litt reviewed the history of the Valley,
highlighted the Valley’s “natural beauty and full-throated industry,”
and challenged the community to embrace the Valley as a place for
“enjoyment, exploration, reinvestment and renewal.”
Steve was invited by the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission (CPC) to
discuss his Valley perspective at their December 2000 meeting. Soon
afterwards, then County Commissioner Tim McCormack approached Planning Director, Paul Alsenas, and inquired about the staff’s current
focus on the Valley. The agency had been involved in Valley projects
including the planned extension of the Towpath Trail, but did not have
the funding to study the Valley as a whole. Though it was late in the
County’s budget preparation process, Commissioners McCormack, Campbell
and Dimora assembled funds necessary to launch the Cuyahoga Valley
Technical Networks 2002-2006
From 2003 to 2006, the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and
Cleveland-based Entrepreneurs for Sustainability (E4S) worked with the
Cuyahoga County Planning Commission to illustrate how to apply
principles of sustainability and natural capitalism to transform a
largely industrial part of the Cuyahoga Valley into a place where
businesses operate more efficiently, land is reclaimed, the River is
healthier, and a people-friendly urban environment is created.
The work performed by RMI on behalf of the Cuyahoga County Planning
Commission included the initial report, "Cuyahoga Valley Initiative- A Model of Regeneration"
(PDF, 1.7 MB) and culminated with its June 2006 report "Advancing the
Regeneration of the Cuyahoga Valley" (PDF, 2.5 MB) which provides an
action plan for the implementation of projects that simultaneously
support environmental restoration and economic development.
Organizational Capacity 2005-2008
It became evident that the sustainable transformation of the Valley
would require many people and organizations to conduct themselves in
sustainable ways. Further, the ability to marshal significant resources
to implement projects and exercise sustained leadership was required.
With funding from The George Gund Foundation, the Cuyahoga County
Planning Commission set out to design organizational capacity.
To involve the community in the planning of organizational capacity,
over sixty interviews were conducted. Further, a fourteen member
Organization Design Collaborative worked for over a year to design
organizational capacity. What was learned was that an organization – or
organizations – charged with making the Cuyahoga Valley into an economic
force, environmental treasure and unifying element for the region would
need to be able to operate in a complex world, involving a myriad of
players public and private. It would need to be agile, adaptive,
permeable, inventive and resourceful – able to work in deep
collaboration with a wide base of enterprises to co-create results with
sustainable benefit to the Valley, each enterprise and the region.
Growing the Network - Our region is becoming increasingly interconnected so that events in one
area, no matter how distant, are able to have significant consequences
on the whole region. With this recognition of the connections between
economic, ecological and social issues, we realize that the sustainable
transformation of the Valley will require a cultural shift and new ways
of working together . This new way of working
together relies on various partnerships across the public, private,
non-profit and academic sectors.
Working in New Ways 2008 - Present
Today, in the absence of a new formal organization, the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission is leading the Cuyahoga Valley Initiative. To prepare the ground for a new organization, CPC is working to provide
meta-level coordination and context for new partnerships and projects that guide the work of the Valley, given its complex
and diverse needs, challenges and stakeholders. The ultimate goal is to
create a new fourth-sector organization, merging the non-profit,
business, public and academic sectors on one super organization to
advance the Cuyahoga Valley Initiative.