The Harwood Institute's approach becomes part of fabric of community

The Harwood Institute's approach becomes part of fabric of community

Posted on May 18, 2016 by Bill Booth

Editor's Note: Bill Booth is a coach for The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation.

During the fourth Innovation Space Workshop last month, the Aspirations to Actions teams were asked to prepare presentations of their work over the past 18 months. We listened to updates from seven groups. What an inspiring day it turned out to be!

To kick us off, the SAVE (Sarasota Against ViolencE) Team shared a PowerPoint presentation summarizing what they learned from their conversations, resulting in a key shared aspiration to "Keep Kids Busy." They described an array of small initiatives, like after school clubs and scout groups that started this past year. What is impressive is that these are all intentional initiatives to “keep kids busy,” while at the same time, making them safer. Or, in the Harwood Institute's parlance, these are all in the “Sweet Spot” of changing community conditions and working on issues.

While the Sarasota Library Team has been involved with the Harwood Institute for a number of years through the American Library Association, they showed real confidence and “authority” after conducting a number of Community Conversations following the discovery of mold and having to close the Venice Library.

United Sarasota is making steady progress in bringing the community voice to the fore and focusing on aspirations. One success is that some of the groups who were previously working in their own silos in the community are now more aware of and thinking about the broader community aspirations and issues.

The other teams all spoke well and enthusiastically about how they were using the Harwood practice and engaging the community in new ways.

Some of my favorite quotes from the meeting were:

  • “Our thinking about this work shifted from a linear process to a circular practice: We do, learn, things change, and we try something new.”
  • "We have lots of ways that we connect and work with each other, but this (A2A) is different; we need to keep doing this.”
  • "This work has broadened our definition of community.”
  • “Focusing on people’s aspirations helps people be engaged, have belief, and commitment."

And this quote brought it all together: "We don’t track how many people we have had conversations with because it’s just become what we do.”

It was a wonderful session for me because I was in learning mode, not just teaching, and I saw how far they have all come over the past 18 months. Keep moving Aspirations to Actions!

Bill Booth may be reached at

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