Photo: Spring 2021 Harwood Virtual Lab

Turning Outward, When the World Has Been Forced to Turn Inward

Posted on August 06, 2021 by Connor LaGrange, TPF Fellow 2021/23
If you are anything like me, the constant barrage of emails with headings such as: "These are unprecedented times" or "I hope you are staying safe during this crazy year" serve as constant reminders that the past 18 months have been anything but typical.

So much has been lost over the last year and a half that these reminders (although coming from a good place) may make us want to flee into hiding as we await some return of real life. One of the things we seemingly lost so quickly was our community (or what our old description of community was). Our churches, schools, coffee shops, sporting and music events, gyms, and many other things where we may find our communal identity were suddenly shut down or operating in some capacity that didn't feel normal to us.

For me, this sudden removal of what I used to view as a traditional form of community was my perfect opportunity to turn my entire life inward and close the door behind me. It was quite easy for me to get sucked into a seemingly unimportant and self-centered world over the last few months (remember Tiger King? That happened in 2o2o, and yes, I watched it in one day).

Many, however, were not so lucky as to have the ability to close the door to the world's issues. For many, the effects of the last 18 months on community life (and life in general) have been devastating.

My blind eye turning was potentially perpetuating these communal inequalities. What I needed was a switch in thinking to help me learn to become a better community member in hopes of participating in community change with newfound friends.

Enter The Harwood Institute and their Public Innovator Lab.

This lab offered me the chance to view community and conversation within community in a whole new light. Much of what the institute attempts to convey to the lab's participants is what The Patterson Foundation already does and demonstrates so well. There is a heavy emphasis on not arriving with the answer, ensuring the right people are at the table, and showing up for our communities. Personally, the Harwood Spring 2021 Virtual Lab gave me three key takeaways to think about when interacting with my community.

The first takeaway was ensuring to always practice humility. Humility allows us to step into spaces, not assuming we have the best take or answer in any given situation. Humility within community is often making sure we ask much better questions and give fewer answers.

Secondly, Harwood showed me the importance of vulnerability. This takeaway dovetails nicely with the first. When we interact with our communities and demonstrate vulnerability, not only does it encourage others to do the same, but it also puts us into a headspace wherein we allow ourselves to experience/hear/partake in different viewpoints and experiences.

Lastly, this experience truly taught me the importance of taking care of ourselves while attempting to live in our communities. There must be an emphasis placed on taking care of ourselves to be more effective as we take care of our communities.

Each of these things, which I felt were key takeaways for myself, are all things that attracted me to The Patterson Foundation (TPF). TPF does an incredible job of encouraging new expressions of community within the Suncoast region. The Harwood experience truly launched my enthusiasm for joining TPF off the charts.

I am grateful to have learned with my cohort and look forward to putting into practice many of the tools the Harwood Institute gave us to use.

Comments (1)

  • Richard Alan Puffer

    Richard Alan Puffer

    24 August 2021 at 14:08 | #

    The first mantra is Turn Outward and Connor does a great job of explaining that while we have to do this as organizations we also have to do it as individuals. It is not usually easy.


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