Aspirations to Actions

August 2012 – Present

Aspirations to Actions

The Purpose

Through the expertise of The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, a nonprofit advancing positive community action by inspiring people and communities to “turn outward,” Florida’s Suncoast is making community — not the conference room — the reference point for change. Individuals and organizations have the power to realize shared aspirations by connecting and engaging within communities. The Aspirations to Actions initiative is an opportunity to learn and apply The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation’s time-tested and proven techniques to evolve community dialogue into positive actions in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, and DeSoto counties.

Strengthening the Impact

Working with Rich Harwood and The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation’s coaches since 2012, The Patterson Foundation supports strengthening efforts in our region. More than 200 people representing diverse geographic areas and issues in Florida’s Suncoast participated in public innovator labs. By encouraging learning, sharing, and evolving together, these public innovators developed a deeper sense of how this practice strengthens individuals, organizations, and communities, and facilitates the realization of community aspirations.

Aspirations to Actions Stepping Forward Book Circles


 As an investment in our community through the Aspirations to Actions Initiative, The Patterson Foundation brought Rich Harwood back to the region to discuss his new book, Stepping Forward. In conjunction with the author’s visit, The Patterson Foundation is supporting registered book circles throughout Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota counties. Learn to Turn Outward. Be inspired as Rich shares his time-tested principals and philosophy used in 50 U.S. states and in 40 countries on how communities can uncover shared aspirations. Click here to learn more.


Click on frequently asked questions below to learn more about this initiative...

Why does The Patterson Foundation support this initiative?

The Patterson Foundation is strengthening the efforts of people, organizations, and communities through the Aspirations to Actions initiative. By providing time and space for people to learn and share together using The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation's techniques, the foundation is supporting the evolution of community dialogue into positive actions that will achieve aspirations in our region.

What is the objective of this initiative?

The objective of the Aspirations to Actions initiative is for our community to take aspirations and turn them into actions that will result in positive change. This initiative has the potential to change the way our community approaches issues and the way it develops innovative, collaborative partnerships that may not have otherwise formed.

What is The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation and why was it chosen for this initiative?

The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that teaches and coaches people and organizations to solve pressing issues and change how communities work together. The people they teach become known as public innovators. The Harwood Institute's unique approach breaks down barriers and empowers people to make progress in improving their communities.

What is the value of this initiative to our community?

Aspirations to Actions has the potential to change the way our community approaches challenges and issues. As the Harwood principles have been employed across the region, we are discovering a new and innovative approach to community conversations that informs decisions we make before we make them. In addition, organizations will exhibit enhanced leadership and new competencies. Organizations will be focused, aligned, and making tangible progress on issues. There will be an environment of innovation and learning and the forming of new partnerships.

What is the timeframe for completing this initiative?

Who can put a "timeframe" on change? The individuals and teams involved in Aspirations to Actions will continue the work of learning the aspirations of their community while connecting and working with others to make change happen. When fully implemented, this initiative will be timeless. It has the potential to change lives and the way our community approaches issues to create positive change together.

What are the next steps for this initiative?

Eleven Community Engagement Teams emerged from the first Public Innovators Lab in 2014, representing diverse geography and topics from the region. With the addition of 120 new public innovators late in 2016, Aspirations to Actions will continue to expand the reach and effectiveness of the Harwood practice.

The 2016 Lab was a first-ever for The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation in that entire teams from Manatee County's and Sarasota County's Public Libraries experienced the three-day learning lab together. The Harwood Institute has benefited from the Aspirations to Actions innovations including local guides-on-the-side who support embedding the work, pre-lab events to prepare participants for the actual lab, and team participation in The Harwood Institute's Virtual Lab.

Labs use the tools and methodologies and apply them to particular issues or challenges. Tools like turning outward allow for connecting individuals with their communities, while the use of community conversations encourage learning and sharing. Innovation spaces foster an evolving discussion that in due course leads to action and strengthening the community.

How can I get involved in Aspirations to Actions?

As our teams continue to engage the community, watch for opportunities to participate as a team member and/or in community conversations. These conversations will give you the opportunity to express your aspirations for our community while learning, sharing, and connecting with others. For deeper understanding of the Harwood practice, you can register for a national Harwood Public Innovators Lab that takes place in different cities once or twice a year, or you can register for one of Harwood's Virtual Labs.

Where can I find general Aspirations to Actions resources and tools?

Below is a list of Aspirations to Actions resources and tools to help guide you through the Harwood practice.

2017 Turn Outward Quiz
Look at the two columns. For each row, circle the word that best describes the focus of your work or efforts in the community. Descriptions are provided on the second page.

2017 The Ripple Effect
How does change move from distinct “pockets” to the broader community? What does it take and who is involved?

2017 Cycle of Public Innovation

Starting with INTENTIONALITY, this infographic shows how the Harwood practice creates a cycle that is repeated over and over again.

Harwood's 18-month Practice Arc
Harwood's Practice Arc allows teams to see where they are in their practice on an 18-month continuum.

Anytown Community Conversation
A sample provided by the Harwood coaches to help teams organize Community Conversation notes.

Theming Harwood
This guide helps teams move from Notes to Themes and from Themes to Creating a Public Knowledge Report, and then it shows how to share and use Public Knowledge.

Who can I contact about the Aspirations to Actions initiative?

For more information, contact initiative consultant Deborah Gauvreau:
Learnings from the first year of Aspirations to Actions
(total time: 6 minutes 16 seconds)

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