Involvement Advocacy is a Community Innovation Engine, home to a portfolio of imaginative, cross-pollinating, community-building initiatives.



In order to grow the Dayton region's economic and social capital, Involvement Advocacy is providing the Collaborative Infrastructure–the physical space, portfolio of initiatives, engagement tools and support system–for citizens from across the region to come together to imagine and act upon new possibilities for themselves, each other and the community.

These new possibilities will involve citizen, government, business, institutional, organizational and philanthropic participants and impact how we live, work and learn.

Dayton Daily News – Ideas & Voices, June 28, 2012 [PDF]

Core Beliefs


"Imagination in Action" is a value that is embraced and internalized by the community, with Courthouse Square serving as a hub of imagination for the region.

The result will be a community where:

*citizen-generated through the THE COLLABORATORY


With this effort comes a renewed sense of purpose, energy and focused, common action, as determined by those engaged in the effort. Impacts are going to be realized mid- to long-term. They include:

Proprietary Model. Proven Process.

Civic BrandsTM

Civic Brands is a proprietary organizing model developed by Involvement Advocacy founder Peter Benkendorf, based on his experience in brand development, product development, marketing & advertising and community work.

If a consumer brand is essentially a framework for inspiring customers to reallocate their money, then a Civic Brand is a framework for inspiring citizens to reallocate their time. ÄBoth require unique and compelling propositions to realize a change in behavior. And while the "sales and marketing" tools may differ, in each case the engagement hierarchy is identical: Trial > Repeat > Adoption > Advocacy.

Self-Expression / Dialog / Action

The three-step Self-Expression / Dialog / Action process-in practice, tested and refined since 1992-gives individual citizen-dreamers an opportunity to share their passions, come together with others of like mind, and ultimately work collaboratively toward common goals. The shared passion piece is critical in forging sustainable engagement. When one owns the outcome, one is far more likely to see it through.

Making It Stick.

Key Challenge

Finding the balance between humanizing and systematizing engagement initiatives.


Involvement Advocacy was founded in 1992 in Chicago by Peter Benkendorf to provide citizens the opportunity and resources to address systemic challenges facing the community, by providing frameworks for new possibilities and collaborative action.

Borne out of two tragic shootings, Involvement Advocacy's first initiative, "Sister Neighborhoods," linked residents of the infamous Chicago public housing community of Cabrini-Green and the north shore suburb of Winnetka, much to the dismay of nearly everyone who thought there was no commonality between the two. While a number of exchanges took place, the outcome that took hold was the creation and four-year publication of the resident-run "Voices of Cabrini," the only community newspaper in Chicago public housing.

Throughout its history, including moves to McHenry County, Illinois in 2000 and Dayton, Ohio in 2008, Involvement Advocacy has stayed true to its mission, fostering imaginative, pioneering, civic engagement and community building initiatives that touch on issues ranging from public housing and urban renewal, to the arts and the environment, from youth development and cross-cultural connections, to technology advancement and community gardens.

Download a complete history of Involvement Advocacy's projects, current and past.

Current Initiatives



In order to grow the Dayton region's economic and social capital, the Collaboratory is providing the Collaborative Infrastructure—the physical space, portfolio of initiatives, engagement tools and support system for people from across the region to come together to imagine and act upon new possibilities for themselves, each other and the community, with a particular interest in downtown. These new possibilities will involve citizen, government, business, institutional, organizational and philanthropic participants and will impact how we live, work, play and learn.

Initiatives, Current and Planned


Logo for 3rd on Third

3RD ON THIRD is an Eclectic Outdoor Market that takes place on the 3rd Sunday of the month on East Third Street in Dayton - hence the name.

A joint effort of The Collaboratory, the East Third Street Business Association and the Huffman Historic District, 3RD ON THIRD Eclectic Outdoor Market features local artists and artisans, antiques, crafts, collectibles, fair trade, clothing, jewelry, handmade items, food trucks and more.

3RD ON THIRD represents a first step in a larger strategic push to spark retail and residential development along East Third from Keowee to the intersection at Linden/Springfield and on into the Huffman Historic District, creating a diverse, vibrant, walkable and sustainable community that attracts a mix of young professionals, families, artists, and immigrants.

Check out 3RD ON THIRD at


Logo for DrumDayton

The purpose of DrumDayton, which we hope will become an annual event, is twofold, 1) to celebrate the diversity of the region though the universal language of drumming and 2) to add creative energy and vibrancy to the downtown core.

On November 2, 2013 on Courthouse Square in the heart of downtown, ten drum groups and individual percussionists, and one Bamboo Stick Orchestra made up of DrumDayton attendees, performed for a diverse audience who shared in the spirit and energy emanating from the stage. Groups performing represented the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, the University of Dayton and Wright State University. Two youth and one all-ages drum corps from Dayton’s west side also performed. Both Native American and African drummers shared their cultures. Instruments ranged from traditional marching drums and hand percussion, to a steel pan and a southern Italian tambourine, not to mention the bamboo sticks!

While DrumDayton was an ends unto itself, with the potential to grow, it really was intended a means to build community by bringing people together who would not normally find themselves together. We are confident that new conversations and collaborations will result from these improbable DrumDayton connections.

Check out DrumDayton videos at:



Dayton, Ohio: You Are Here! is a citizen-driven initiative to spark the imagination about what it means to be here in Dayton, in this moment. The Greeks called this "Kairos Time."

For too long now, Dayton has been stuck in the past, celebrating the late 19th- and early 20th-century achievements of the Wright Brothers, Patterson and Kettering. Or we are worrying about the future. When the real question we all need to be asking ourselves is, "what am I doing today?"

Dayton Courthouse

The genesis of Dayton, Ohio: You Are Here! is local artist Terry Welker, who while walking to a meeting one evening last summer, saw in the Old Courthouse not just a piece of Dayton history, but the opportunity to reshape it. As invention is so often the combining to two disparate concepts, so it was in this case, 1) use contemporary architectural lighting to visually transform the building's appearance, and 2) top it off with the "ubiquitous red arrow" that one finds on informational maps in urban centers and shopping malls, that says "You Are Here."

And what better place to say Dayton, Ohio: You Are Here! than Courthouse Square, at the very heart of our city.

Dayton, Ohio: You Are Here! emerged on Urban Nights, May 11, 2012 with a small installation at the Dayton Circus Sideshow and the initial handing out of our Dayton, Ohio: You Are Here! stickers. We will be slowly rolling out over the summer, leading to our formal launch September 8 - 9 in partnership with the Downtown Dayton Revival Festival and September 14 on Urban Nights, with the realized transformation of the Old Courthouse.

Tech-Arts Collaboration

Tech-Arts Collaboration

Initiated by Air Force Research Lab Director Joe Sciabica and Involvement Advocacy founder Peter Benkendorf in late 2010, TECH-ARTS COLLABORATION is bringing together local artists and engineers to investigate the economic and community development potential of these two strong Dayton resources coming together.

The first initiative involved seven artist and eight engineers & scientists from the Air Force Research Lab in a pilot project to explore new approaches to addressing Information Visualization challenges. Additional outcomes include putting Dayton-based technologies in the hands of local artists and engaging the community around the intersection of art and technology.

Collaborators include the Wright Brothers Institute, which is helping to facilitate the collaboration, and Larrell Walters, director of UDRI's IDCAST, which is also making technology accessible to the artist team.

Watch a short video on the AFRL/Arts collaboration.

In the News

Past Initiatives

Blue Sky Project

Blue Sky Project is an international summer artist residency and youth collaborative. Founded and operated from 2005 – 2008 in McHenry County, Illinois, the program is now housed at the University of Dayton, in partnership with the College of Arts and Sciences and ArtStreet.

Committed to producing significant works of contemporary art across all mediums, Blue Sky Project links five professional artists from around the world with five college apprentices and 40 young people aged 14 - 18 from throughout the region, to pursue projects proposed by the artists

Blue Sky Project's objectives are threefold:

Blue Sky Project has been described as "transformational" by artists, youth participants, teachers and parents. This transformational effect is possible, in large part, because an aspect of Blue Sky is its eight-week duration and the intensity of the experience. This has allowed Blue Sky to focus on bringing about a paradigm shift in the following areas:

  1. Evolving youth development-moving from an art education model of youth growth to a "whole child" integration of the creative, aesthetic, social, intellectual and interpersonal development of youth, working not subordinately to, but collaboratively with, each other and professional adults.
  2. Evolving artistic practice, including the full range of artists--from those accustomed to working in a strictly solitary mode to those whose projects are inherently collective and to the extension of those practices to include the active involvement of teenagers as well as the concerns of the local community. The result is artworks and intellectual thought not otherwise achievable, causing a ripple effect that goes to, and beyond, the creative life and development of each participating group: artist, youth and community.

Ten Living Cities Symposium

August 8, 2009 Dayton, Ohio

An article in the August 5, 2008 issue of declared Buffalo, NY; Canton, OH; Charleston, WV; Cleveland, OH; Dayton, OH; Detroit, MI; Flint, MI; Scranton PA; Springfield, MA and Youngstown, OH as America's 10 Fastest Dying Cities.

Looking to prove that nothing could be further from the truth, and timed to celebrate the articles 1st anniversary, on August 8, 2009, representatives of eight of the ten cities and more than 200 concerned citizens gathered in Dayton to share ideas and inspirations, make new connections and imagine possibilities for the kinds of communities we want to live in an have thrive.

Ten Living Cities Symposium was the brainchild of Involvement Advocacy executive director Peter Benkendorf and Mike Elsass, owner of Color of Energy Gallery in Dayton. Put together in under four months, and highlighted by opening remarks from Forbes writer Josh Zumbrun, author of the original Dying Cities article, the event succeeded beyond the originators expectations, with representatives of eight of the 10 cities sharing why their cities are very much alive.

In the News

Board of Directors


Donate to IA

Involvement Advocacy relies on the generous support of individuals, corporations and foundations to make the program possible. All contributions are 100% tax-deductible.

Here's how you can help:

Make a secure online donation or send a check to:

P.O. Box 10506
Dayton, Ohio 45402


Office: Involvement Advocacy, Courthouse Crossing, 33 North Main Street, Dayton, OH 45402
Mail: Involvement Advocacy, P.O. Box 10506, Dayton, OH 45402-7506
Contact: (937) 732-5123,

"Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably will not themselves be realized."

Daniel Burnham, Chicago lakefront master planner