Photo: Stepping Forward book cover
Photo: Rich Harwood
Photo: Aspirations to Actions logo and Harwood Institute logo
Photo: Am I turned outward today?
Aspirations to Actions Stepping Forward Book Circles

October 2019 – Present

Aspirations to Actions Stepping Forward Book Circles

The Purpose

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.

Strengthening the Impact

Over the past 30 years, Rich Harwood has innovated and developed a new philosophy and practice of how communities can solve shared problems, create a culture of shared responsibility, and deepen people’s civic faith. Stepping Forward book circles aim to help participants build a sense of community, foster positive relationships among citizens, discover shared aspirations, and embrace possibilities for our collective future through guided discussions around Rich Harwood’s Stepping Forward book. Stepping Forward shows readers how to channel frustrations, energies, and aspirations to get on a more hopeful path.

Read the FAQs below to explore the possibilities of this unique opportunity. Then, SIGN UP TO LEAD A BOOK CIRCLE!


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

What is Stepping Forward?

Stepping Forward is a new book by Rich Harwood, founder of The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation and nationally recognized advocate for Turning Outward. Included here is a brief synopsis of Stepping Forward

Stepping Forward

Many of us are looking for an alternative to the divisive nature of our public discourse, mistrust and broken promises. Where we can find hope to bridge our divides, come together and get things done.

Rich Harwood offers a new path forward. Stepping Forward makes the case that we don’t have to accept the divisions, gridlock, and negativity happening in our communities and country. He knows, from working in communities for more than 30 years, that we can rediscover what we share in common and actively build upon it.

Stepping Forward shows us how to channel our frustrations, energies, and aspirations to get on a more hopeful path. This book shows us how we can step forward to —
  • Turn Outward to see and hear each other and afford every person human dignity
  • Rediscover what we share in common by focusing on our shared aspirations, even amid our real differences
  • Recognize we must tap into our innate capabilities to produce meaningful change
  • Forge a new shared responsibility to marshal community resources to solve problems and harness people’s yearning for genuine engagement
  • Create a new can-do narrative by focusing on civic parables that remind us that we can be actors, shapers, and builders of our shared lives
To get the country moving in a better direction, these efforts must start in our local communities. Then we can restore our can-do spirit and faith in ourselves. You don’t need to wait...step forward.

What is a Stepping Forward Book Circle?

Stepping Forward Book Circles are an opportunity for individuals to gather to discuss and build on the themes of the book. A group of eight or more individuals who agree to meet at least three times to discuss Stepping Forward is considered an official book circle. Ideally, these meetings will build or strengthen relationships and afford opportunities for diving deep into shared aspirations.

Why is the Patterson Foundation supporting Stepping Forward Book Circles?

The Patterson Foundation looks for opportunities to strengthen people, organizations, and communities. No matter your current engagement level in the community, The Patterson Foundation has learned there are always new opportunities to create connective tissue...that is, to build relationships.

Who can join a book circle?

Anyone! We are all members of at least one community, but most of us are members of many. If you’re interested in making new connections and coming together with your neighbors, coworkers, peers, family, friends, congregation, students, or fellow humans, we hope you’ll think about creating or joining a book circle. There will be Stepping Forward Book Circles happening all over the country. However, to benefit from The Patterson Foundation’s support, your book circle must meet in Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee, or Sarasota counties.

What are the expectations for a Stepping Forward Book Circle?

Book circles can come in many shapes and forms. However, to qualify for complimentary copies of Stepping Forward and the $250 Pay It Forward Award, book circles must –
  • Register a minimum of eight participants.
  • Have at least six people of your registered eight meet three to five times by December 1, 2020, although best book circle practices suggest five meetings.
  • Give your book circle a nickname.
  • Answer the corresponding Poll Everywhere question provided by TPF at each book circle meeting.
  • Share at least one photo and one story from your book circle with The Patterson Foundation for sharing on social media.
  • Come to a consensus about what nonprofit with an up-to-date profile in The Giving Partner will benefit from your Pay It Forward Award.

What do I get when I join a Stepping Forward Book Circle?

Each registered member of an official book circle – eight or more participants – will receive a copy of Stepping Forward as a gift from The Patterson Foundation. A discussion guide created by Rich Harwood is also provided for every book circle. Book circles who meet a minimum of three times, report attendance, and complete a question at each meeting will be eligible for a $250 Pay It Forward Award, intended for any nonprofit with an up-to-date profile in The Giving Partner.

What if my group can’t come to a consensus?

If your group cannot come to a consensus about which nonprofit to gift your Pay It Forward Award, it will not be awarded. The Patterson Foundation believes that every group will be equipped with the tools to negotiate the discussion and arrive at a common goal.

Why does my book circle need a nickname?

The Patterson Foundation anticipates that there will be many tidbits book circles do, which participants will find inspiring. To make sure your group can be recognized for everything awesome, you’ll need to select a unique name. Your book circle’s nickname is an opportunity to be as creative or sparkly or braggy or ordinary as you’s all up to you!

How can I lead a Stepping Forward Book Circle?

If you are interested in leading a book circle, please submit an interest form using this link and The Patterson Foundation will reach out to you with additional details to get started.

Additional FAQ's

Click on frequently asked questions below to learn more about Aspirations to Actions Stepping Forward Book Circles...

Why would someone want to join a Stepping Forward Book Circle?

There are many reasons to participate, but here are just a few:
  • You’ll learn something new.
    Even people who have been through the Public Innovator Labs will have the opportunity to learn new things about other people in their group and therefore more about their community and sometimes, even more about themselves. 

  • You can be a part of something new.
    If you’re an old hat at book circles, perhaps the chance to work together to decide the fate of your $250 Pay It Forward Award is new. Or maybe, your circle is full of yet-to-be friends, then, there will be a number of new possibilities as you build new relationships!

  • You’ll be a part of a national “happening.”
    Stepping Forward Book Circles will happen all over the United States. By deepening your understanding and tools to connect with others, you’ll join a national network of people “Turning Outward.”

Why would a business form a Stepping Forward Book Circle?

Businesses may be looking for new ways to connect with their employees or their customers...or their employees with their customers. When we get to know more about the people we spend time with every day, we forge connections, strengthen engagement, and feel more supported.

Why would a nonprofit form a Stepping Forward Book Circle?

Nonprofits are 100% dedicated to their mission. Sometimes, it’s helpful to create intentional opportunities to pause and reflect on how we connect inside our organizations, with our community or with those we serve. Stepping Forward Book Circles can offer an opportunity for renewal and reenergizing passion for mission.

What can happen as a result of being part of a Stepping Forward Book Circle?

The possibilities are endless! Our aspiration is that each participant will be inspired to make a difference. Movement or change doesn’t need to happen on a grand scale to be important.

In the words of Dr. Suess, “And when things start to happen, don’t worry. Don’t stew. Just go right along. You’ll start happening too.”

Who should I ask to join my book circle?

Humans, although pets are welcome but can’t register. It is often nice to gather friendly faces to discuss something new, but the good news is that Stepping Forward is about how we can turn outward to begin building bridges with diverse people. So, really, Stepping Forward Book Circles are a great way to meet new people or strengthen relationships with people you want to know better.

I was part of The Power of Presence Book Circles. Is this the same thing?

Kudos to you for participating in The Power of Presence Book Circles. In total, there were more than 100 book circles and upward of 1,000 participants who learned "how to be the voice in a child's ear when you're not with them." 

Stepping Forward Book Circles are the same in that anyone is welcome to lead or join one. However, rather than collecting a stipend per meeting, qualifying book circles will receive one Pay It Forward Award to be designated to a local nonprofit with an up-to-date profile in The Giving Partner.
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.
(total time: 69 minutes)

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