In the blink of an eye, another cohort has completed the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation's Spring 2021 Virtual Lab! Karen Arnold, Connie Cuadrado, Connor LaGrange, Maria Schaedler-Luera, and Dan Schlandt brought a wide variety of perspectives, life experiences, and insights into the lab and emerged with a broader understanding of community and how they can contribute.

In my reflection about the Fall 2020 lab cohort, I stated that I was affirmed by the individuals who completed the lab then and the great work they do. I'm equally affirmed by this group. They are smart, talented, hard-working, and have found ways to incorporate Harwood's tools. Many of them recognized that the concepts they learned provide a theoretical way to understand how The Patterson Foundation operates - that is, with an outward-facing, community-based approach.

But don't just take it from me. Here are some insights about their own experiences.
  • "Anybody can participate in a community. You can have input if you want to."
  • "Now, I understand the steps to reaching out to the community in a structured way. "
  • "This (lab experience) will help all of us begin to really think about what the community wants and needs."
  • "It's important to just keep showing up. The biggest thing I'm taking away is more tools to do what I am doing. It gave me an opportunity to understand the whole picture."
That's just a snapshot of what they've learned in the midst of their lab experience. What I've learned throughout my Fellowship is that the Harwood experience sticks with you. In my current work, I'm continuously referring to a concept or an insight that I learned a year ago during my time in the virtual lab.

For example, as the fellows lead the Aspirations to Actions initiative (with myself as the main point of contact), I continuously wonder how we can turn outward. How can we learn from community, and how can and do those learnings affect other initiatives? That idea hit home for me when we engaged community members in a recent conversation about digital access. We worked hard not to arrive with the answer and deeply listened to their thoughts, insights, questions, and concerns. We asked questions that invited open and honest conversation and made sure we shared that all perspectives were valued.

We hope this group will remember and refer to the Harwood concepts as well – that they have the tools at their disposal whenever they're thinking on their own or interacting with community.

Congrats to the five new public innovators. We know you'll continue to do amazing work!

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