The Power of Peers Meets Appreciative Inquiry

The Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership recently sponsored a Homecoming and Day of Excellence.  The event was inspired by what Detroit started in its own city a few years ago when leaders who once called Detroit home were invited back to meet the leaders living there today to talk about re-investing and re-imagining the community of which they share a common bond.   Over the past two years, the initiative has sparked more than $260 million in pending investments in metro Detroit by the expats.  The people of Erie would love to achieve a similar outcome.

Judging by the enthusiasm of the Erie community and the commitment to success from all who attended, Erie is going to do some great things.  Ninety-three companies stepped up as sponsors.  Speakers hailed from across the country to participate in the Day of Excellence program, and there was a palpable understanding that while an event may get the ball rolling and generate excitement, long-term success will require the tireless work of peers (community leaders and expats alike) for years to come.   I believe I witnessed the start of something big.

I was fortunate enough to be one of about 25 speakers invited to participate in the day’s festivities.  My topic, as you would imagine, focused on the power of peer advantage and creating the kind of peer-to-peer mechanism that will be necessary for making real progress.  How they work together will be the key though.  This is why, as I dropped in to listen to some of the other speakers’ presentations,  I was especially taken by Dr. Laurie McPherson from the University of San Francisco.

Dr. MacPherson weaved tales of her childhood in Erie with an approach to carving out a path for the future through “appreciative inquiry.” Rather than consider Erie’s current economic situation as a problem to be solved, appreciative inquiry challenges us to identify and value the best of what is, envision what might be, and talk about what should be.  Dr. MacPherson nailed it.  If I were going to lead peer groups assigned to tackle various aspects of Erie’s comeback, I’d post Dr. MacPherson’s advice at every meeting.  It will not only keep everyone laser focused on the task at hand, but also inspire a culture that’s hard-wired to leverage the region’s greatest strengths and position it for long-term prosperity.

The people I met were proud of their community and committed to making a positive difference regardless of where they may live today.  It was the power of peers meets appreciative inquiry.   I can’t wait to see what happens!


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