Guest Post: Finding the courage for community change

Guest Post: Finding the courage for community change

Posted on December 26, 2012 by Jane Grogg

On the final day of the Harwood Institute Laboratory, Rich Harwood wrapped the session with an invitation to establish a personal covenant or as heard many times in the lab, put a stake in the ground. I reflected on key aspects of turning outward (looking to the community and acting intentionally to create change), asking citizens about their aspirations and using that public knowledge to act.

I realized that it takes courage to do this kind of work.

Certainly, many of the lab participants and I have facilitated many public meetings and led large community initiatives, but to commit to these standards is a lot of work and requires courage of individuals, organizations, boards and citizens to seek real community change.

Public knowledge includes aspirations from citizens who haven’t traditionally been part of the conversation. Asking new groups of people, "what is their reality,"could be outside the usual comfort zone. Organizations are challenged to span boundaries to contribute to change. Organizations may also face public knowledge of people’s realities to be different than what was used to make previous decisions about programs. Forming new partnerships instead of holding on to existing turf is also uncomfortable.

While it takes courage to turn outward, the rewards are great for an engaged community.

Authority comes from being able to speak about people’s reality.

Authenticity is confidence in knowing that work reflects the reality of people’s lives.

Accountability is established in actions meaningful for people.

It is significant, and perhaps, daunting when looked at all at once, however small yet meaningful steps of asking others for aspirations seem doable. And a group of public innovators to take these steps seems to be just the thing to find the courage for real community change…together.

Jane Grogg is the manager of neighborhood services for Sarasota County Government -

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