Guest Post: Using innovation space to advance SCOPE's community data initiative

Guest Post: Using innovation space to advance SCOPE's community data initiative

Posted on January 04, 2013 by John McCarthy, Executive Director, Gulf Coast Heritage Association / Historic Spanish Point

Respect for people and place has shaped much of the work that I have been engaged in within the Sarasota Community. And so it was a tremendous privilege to be included in The Patterson Foundation’s delegation attending the Harwood Public Innovators Lab in Alexandria, Virginia. Since the measure of any learning is how it is applied, and since this adventure represented a substantial investment by our hosts, I returned to Sarasota anxious to explore some of the newly learned concepts and skills.

After debriefing with the entire Sarasota delegation, Colleen McGue -- who works on the community data initiative at SCOPE --  and I convened our own Innovation Space. We set a time - we found a place. We used our “space” to reflect on what we have learned and to brainstorm how we could integrate Harwood techniques in our daily work – in particular SCOPE’s 2013 Community Data 2.1 sessions. With our minds opened to new ways of “being” it was clear that we would chart a new course toward aspiration-based community engagement.

We talked about how Harwood’s Community Conversations format provides guidance for turning-outward in the upcoming Data 2.1 discussions. We identified partners who can help bring fresh faces to the conversation. We then began to see how engaging partners around issues through community conversations would cultivate enhanced capacity in the community – the sweet spot needed to sustain these intentional conversations. We realized that these new tools and partners could make us more efficient, and thus, we could cast a wider net throughout the county, reaching out to places we have not gone before.  Within an hour, we filled an entire white board - with ideas and connections and overlapping circles.  We slipped in the Harwood vocabulary to keep the learning fresh, focused and fun.

Our capacity has already been enhanced - the investment is already growing - small ripples are beginning to form. New tools and new approaches are emerging to help sculpt a community that can only be shaped through engaging the aspirations of the people who live here.

 John McCarthy is a consultant to SCOPE (Sarasota County Openly Plans for Excellence).  

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