Turn Again:  Aspirations to Actions

Turn Again: Aspirations to Actions

Posted on September 02, 2014 by Pam Truitt

Reduce poverty

Increase job opportunities

Increase civility

I was fortunate to be included in the recent Public Innovators Lab, which was funded by The Patterson Foundation and presented by The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation. Prior to the training, which is part of The Patterson Foundation's Aspirations to Actions initiative, a Town Hall presentation with Rich Harwood, founder and president of the Institute, was held to "rally the troops" and ignite community passion for positive change.

During Harwood's address, each of the 250 attendees was asked to fill out a card with his or her top three community aspirations. Mine are above. Pretty lofty aspirations, wouldn’t you agree? It begs the question—how in the world would a community tackle this?

The answer today is, I don’t know. But let’s put the challenges into context.

I spent a quarter of a century in the urban planning field, where I specialized in helping communities set and implement comprehensive plans. The process was designed to cast a wide net and the best planners are those who listened and reflected community desires in written policies. Over time, however, we learned that while working on a community-wide level had its benefits, it left too many holes and unresolved issues. Community plans focused on growth management, not careers, poverty or civility—to use my examples. A frequent refrain from colleagues was, “we'll deal with it later."

Five years ago, I hit the refresh button and moved on to my encore career. I always ruminated on how Florida -- now the third most populous state --was going to address its growing impacts.

Enter the concept of "turning outward."

Harwood’s premise is that communities will facilitate positive change by two-way conversations and being open. This is called ‘turning outward’—a verb, defined as:

• The act of seeing and hearing those in the community and acting with intentionality to create change

• A reorientation toward the public; a posture

• A framework for making choices about public life

From my eyes, this could have been straight out of a planning textbook, but the difference is that Harwood is talking to organizations and citizens—not a handful of community planners. That’s a breath of fresh air!

It was fun and exhilarating to go through the training with 70+ citizens from Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties, and I enjoyed learning just as much as the next person. The participants are all part of eight or so groups that have committed to stick together and work on common issues for a year—at least.

There’s a quote in one of The Patterson Foundation’s conference rooms that brings this home.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Looking forward to the Harwood journey!


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