Photo: Aspirations to Actions logo

What really is Aspirations to Actions?

Posted on July 21, 2021 by Abby Rolland, TPF Fellow 2020/21
In my mind, Aspirations to Actions (A2A) is one of The Patterson Foundation's loosest, most difficult initiatives to describe. One way to describe it, through its subtitle, is building trust and strengthening communities through purposeful engagement. In reality, that is what TPF does on a regular basis through all of its initiatives. I don’t see A2A as a fully separate initiative; instead, its principles of turning outward and connecting and engaging with community are embedded into every one of TPF’s initiatives and values.

Last fall though, CEO Debra Jacobs tasked TPF fellows John Ferguson, Hannah Saeger Karnei, and myself to work with initiative consultant Deborah Gauvreau to transition A2A to us. Moving forward, we (now) and future fellows will be the new initiative managers, tasked with implementing current initiative projects and dreaming of new ways to engage with community. While we are co-leaders of the initiative, I have been the main point of contact and the organizer of the work we have implemented thus far.

A2A is growing, evolving, changing, and so as I depart The Patterson Foundation as a fellow to move on to my next career journey, I’d like to share some of those efforts and why we’re investing in them.

In being tasked with our new leadership responsibilities, we looked at what was already included in the initiative:
These projects are wonderful and help us build trust and respect for differing opinions in community. However, we also wanted to figure out how to expand the reach of A2A. What would be additional and helpful, but not extraneous projects to enhance this relationship-developing and community-building work? After many discussions and a lot of brainstorming, we decided to add a few components.
  • A quarterly newsletter that shares reflections on recent A2A events, information and registration links to upcoming community conversations, community events that inspire engagement and community-building, and an opportunity to receive Rich Harwood’s book Stepping Forward.

  • Quarterly community conversations focused on a specific, relevant topic. These conversations help inform TPF’s work by helping us understand individual and organizational perspectives on the topic.
    • For example, our first community conversation in this structure focused on digital access. We’re excited that our next one(s) (there are three offerings!) will be focused on COVID recovery. Click here for details and to register.

  • Special Project: Harwood Institute Study. Without giving too much away, The Harwood Institute reached out with another way for us to connect with community members to learn more about the national mood. More to come on that later!
To distribute the newsletter and spread word about the new community conversations, we needed to get all of our ducks in a row. This involved making sure the A2A’s webpage was aligned with our work, and also ensuring that our internal file with all of the participants in the various projects was updated and accurate. It sounds easier than it was, but we’re confident that moving forward, the organization of this work will help future fellows lead these efforts.

When we were handed the management of A2A, I wasn’t sure what would stay, what would evolve, and what would be added. However, I know that all of this work of building trust and relationships helps us create a stronger community. Each one of the projects we have undertaken does just that, and we’re confident that future fellows will do even more of this essential work to grow and enhance Aspirations to Actions.

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