Recently, I participated in the Harwood Institute's Public Innovators Virtual Lab. One of the first things you are asked to do in the Harwood Lab is to clearly articulate your aspirations for your community and what you stand for. For me, it is that all children in my community will have the resources, support, and opportunities to achieve the level of education needed to realize their potential and have the chance to lead a successful life – regardless of economic status, race, or other life circumstances.

So now that I clarified what I want, how do I get there? My natural tendency is to research the problem, look at what others are doing on this issue, and then develop a plan to start solving the problem. This great plan lacks just one thing – everyone else's involvement who also shares these same aspirations.

One of the foundational tenets of the Harwood Approach is "Turning Outward." This requires not assuming that you know what people need or what is best for them. It is being intentional in truly seeking to understand what people and organizations aspire to and what changes they want to see in their community.

Particularly eye-opening for me was the exercise where we asked three people four questions related to their aspirations for their community (the "Ask Tool"). The people I interviewed were surprised to be asked what their aspirations were, "Nobody has ever asked me that before." But all of them definitely were passionate about certain things and appreciated the questions.

People want to make a difference in the things they care about. For some of the difficult, long-term challenges facing our community, we must make intentional efforts to continually Turn Outward to create the energy and passion necessary to make real change happen.

The Harwood Lab has given me a new perspective on how to look at the work we are trying to do. I feel fortunate working with The Patterson Foundation, which has incorporated the practice of Turning Outward into its culture and has used this approach in the community for many years.

I look forward to taking the things I have learned in the Harwood Lab and discovering how to become more involved in working with the community to accomplish things we all want to see get done.

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