The art of building community starts with imagination, turning outward

The art of building community starts with imagination, turning outward

Posted on March 22, 2013 by Gina Ribeiro

The “ART” of building community is what Ringling College of Art and Design contributes to the development of this beautiful Sarasota/Manatee region. Going through the Harwood Public Innovators experience helped me to make that connection. Sure, there are many organizations, people and companies in the region who sing and dance to the beat of the arts. What Ringling College adds are two important factors:

1. The connection among the arts, business and the region’s future economy

2. Our community, as a whole, needs to “own” its future

Doesn’t that ring a bell? The Harwood philosophy and process is all about this from a process perspective! Get the community to define its needs and shape its future versus leaving that to the “powers that be."

We are learning and integrating those ideas into how Ringing College is working in the community to grow its future. For example, the Imagination Conversations were high-involvement, community engagement sessions segmented by industry to do just that – have conversations about what role imagination, creativity and innovation play into shaping the economy here. The initiative engaged more than 400 community participants across Sarasota and Manatee counties and from 17 industries.

The goal was to explore the region's current assets and facilitate a dialogue about all the other possibilities beyond what is being done today in relation to creativity and innovation. Many diverse perspectives were intentionally included. And the result is that we added to our existing database of public knowledge (or what we might call “artful knowledge” since each conversation was also visually documented and is currently being published into an ebook).

Many new synergies were discovered and more people are inspired to pay more attention to how powerful the creative process can be. All of this adds up to much of the goal of the Harwood process for developing thriving and sustainable communities. Of course, there is still a ton of work to do, but I am hopeful that with all the assets that this community has, including Ringing College, and with the Harwood knowledge, there is no doubt that this community is destined to reach its full potential - and much sooner than later since so many more are now singing and dancing to the beat.

Gina Ribeiro is the manager of creative projects at Ringling College of Art and Design.  She was part of the delegation from Sarasota that participated in a Harwood Institute Public Innovator's Lab. Gina may be reached at 

  • Learn about these and other concepts used in TPF's approach to philanthropy.


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