Recently, I attended the 2019 Harwood Summit in Philadelphia. I had completed Harwood’s Virtual Public Innovators Lab and was excited to meet Rich Harwood, the author of Stepping Forward – the book about turning outward and asking the right questions. I was ready and eager to learn.

I was surprised when Day 1 began with a word. One word. Awaken. And one question: What does it mean to me?

Participants gave varying responses, everything from becoming aware to refresh. I do not remember all the responses; however, I have vivid memories of being in a room with accomplished individuals who were thoughtful, smart, and questioning. They were total believers of the notion that asking questions and not arriving with the answer was an effective way to accomplish their goals. Every interaction, including dinner, was designed to spark conversations that facilitated the turning outward approach.

I’ve been reflecting on what awaken means to me, and I consistently think of an awareness that we are sentient beings with a knowledge of self and what’s important to our selves.

Sometimes, we are so acutely aware of our being and our perspective, that we are unaware of other sentient beings and their views. We aren’t ignorant of other humans; we simply are unaware of them. In other words, we are not awake.

It is, therefore, even more critical that we #TurnOutward so that we can awaken to the broader communities we live in if we are to make a difference in them. We can be aware of different perspectives only if we ask different questions and truly listen to the answers.

I now understand why some participants held a point-of-pride for attending multiple Summits. I reaffirmed my commitment as a United Way Suncoast team member to ask different questions, to ask who else cares, and most of all, to awaken to the possibilities this method brings.

I can’t wait to be one of those participants at the next Harwood Summit saying, “Oh, this isn’t my first Summit.” Hopefully, eventually, I will be a third or fourth timer!

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