Rich Harwood, author of the book "Stepping Forward" and president of The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, gave a speech recently on how communities can come together to solve problems and inspire hope while creating change.
All meaningful change starts within the community.
This was one of the central themes discussed during a keynote speech given Tuesday at the Manatee Performing Arts Center by author and motivational speaker Rich Harwood, whose new book "Stepping Forward" encourages people to Turn Outward to work toward shared aspirations within their community.
Despite living in "polarizing times," Harwood thinks that laying the groundwork for positive change in our own backyards is the single best way to bring together a "divided America."
"We do not have to accept what's happening in our country today; there is a better way forward," said Harwood. "We need to look to our local communities to restore our sense of belief in ourselves and one another. We need to see and hear one another again. It's only right here in our local communities and in this region that we can afford each other dignity in our daily lives and come together and make progress together. It's only right here that we can restore our belief that we can actually get things done together."
The event was presented through Aspirations to Actions, an initiative of The Patterson Foundation that "seeks to evolve community dialogue into positive actions in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, and Desoto counties by applying time-tested and proven techniques of The Harwood Institute of Public Innovation."
In addition to Rich's visit, the foundation will be facilitating and supporting a series of book circles open to the public, which will center around exploring some of the concepts in Harwood's book, "Stepping Forward," which focuses on how communities can come together to solve issues while creating a culture of shared responsibility and renewing civic faith.
Book circles with eight or more participants who gather for three or more discussions also have the opportunity to award $250 to a regional nonprofit through The Giving Partner.
Harwood's visit follows a series of trips he has taken throughout the region to meet with community leaders.
"You want to talk about collaboration at its finest? It's a long journey, but we're making progress," said Debra Jacobs, president and CEO of The Patterson Foundation. "This is a man who works across the globe, and we are fortunate that we are part of this movement. This is a man who lives his values, knows no one should be invisible, and knows we can make a difference."
In a time where many of us are seeking hope, Jacobs said, Harwood and others working within the community have offered a path to "connect so that we can rediscover our shared aspirations and focus our energies toward achieving them." This is something they hope to continue with the book circles, which they hope will inspire and engage the community toward positive change.
But each of us can make a difference, according to Harwood, who largely credits members of his community, such as his childhood basketball coach, with giving him a strong foundation and principles to live by.
It all starts with making sure that none of us are invisible, he said, and by ensuring that our community, not our conference rooms, are the primary reference points when it comes to making decisions.
"Don't think that anything you're doing is too small because it adds up," said Harwood. "There's a belief that if your effort isn't big, if it's not large, if it's not expensive or shiny or sophisticated or complex, that it doesn't have value. But every day, small groups of people are banding together within their communities, and starting things they never would have imagined could create these incredible ripples in our community and our country. So whatever you're doing, however small it is, it's important, it's vital, so don't give up on it, please."
STEPPING FORWARD BOOK CIRCLES
Click here if you are interested in leading a book circle focused on Rich Harwood’s ”Stepping Forward.”