Editor's Note: This blog is written by Deborah Gauvreau, lead consultant for Age-Friendly Sarasota, Aspirations to Actions, Aspirations Journalism, National Council on Aging's 100 Million Lives, and the Suncoast Nursing Action Coalition in Collaboration with Beth Duda, director of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

The Chinese Bamboo plant starts from a tiny seed. You plant the seed, and like any other seed, you water and take care of it. In the first year, your efforts are rewarded with a tiny shoot. During the second year of watering, care, and protection, there is no change. During the third year of watering, care, and protection, there is no change. During the fourth year of watering, care, and protection, there is no change.

During the fifth year, the Chinese Bamboo plant begins to grow. It grows a whopping 90 feet tall in just six weeks! Why? The Chinese Bamboo plant is busy creating a strong root structure to withstand heavy rain and wind. The plant’s growth is not visible, but growth is occurring. It is strengthening itself for the future.

I love to remember this process as a metaphor when I have been striving for change and do not see immediate results.

It is a great metaphor for the work of Aspirations to Actions (A2A), an initiative of The Patterson Foundation (TPF), which brings nationally recognized programs to our region to strengthen our community’s capacity to connect and work together for better outcomes. The Harwood Institute offers time-tested techniques to evolve community dialogue into positive actions. 

TPF’s A2A initiative has sponsored community passionaries’ participation in Harwood labs to shift our perspective to a more turned outward approach, allowing us to step out of our silos and into the community to identify and realize community aspirations. 

Since 2014, individuals and organizations have been strengthening their capacity to ask new questions, not arrive with the answer, and make the community — not the conference room — the reference point for change.

The A2A initiative is now sponsoring 14 professionals from Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota counties with connections to the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Each is embarking on Harwood Institute’s 8-week Virtual Public Innovator Labs which will strengthen them as individuals and help them develop tools to strengthen their organizations and in turn, our region. 

  • Mike Kennedy, Senior Vice President of Community Investment, Community Foundation of Sarasota County
  • Alisa Mitchell, Initiative Consultant, Community Foundation of Sarasota County
  • Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director, United Way of Charlotte County
  • Diane Ramseyer, Kids Thrive, Charlotte County
  • Anne Bouhebent, Early Learning Coalition of the Heartland
  • Carmel Kisiday, Director of Elementary Learning, Charlotte County Public Schools
  • Ashley Maher, Executive Director, Charlotte County Community Foundation
  • Lynn Dorler, Executive Director, Boys & Girls Clubs of Charlotte County
  • Carolyn Griffin, Director of Strategic Impact, United Way Suncoast
  • Debbie Tapp, Volunteer, United Way Suncoast
  • Debra Starr, Volunteer, United Way Suncoast
  • Jenifer Johnson, SCGLR Engagement Team, The Patterson Foundation
  • Shalia Moore-Hayes, SCGLR Engagement Team, The Patterson Foundation
  • Jeannie Baik, Vice President of Volunteer Experience and Programs, Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Suncoast

Sarasota County is enrolling ten individuals from a variety of its departments to learn about community aspirations from community conversations that will inform actions to realize aspirations.

As interest in the spring virtual lab percolates, community interest in having another in-person lab is emerging. An idea about having an event for all alumni of Aspirations to Actions / Harwood Institute labs is now being discussed. Change is in the air!

Whether it is the Chinese Bamboo plant requiring watering, care, and protection or creating better ways to realize community aspirations, persistence and commitment are essential ingredients for us to create a future we desire.

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