Rich Harwood of the Harwood Institute Shares How to Wield the Power of Community Conversation

April 15, 2021 | | 0 Comments

The Harwood Institute
The Harwood Institute

Rich Harwood shared insights into sparking change that evolves over time. He founded the Harwood Institute in 1988 with work centered around developing community change-centered conversations. A philosophy of civic faith and community driven solutions fueled this initiative’s efforts for more than 30 years.

Society became increasingly polarized in the experiences and opportunities people encounter based on their backgrounds. Rich explains that most of the initiative’s work focuses on building communities of shared responsibility and common enterprise. Overall, the institute is teaching people “…how to create change in their local communities that reflects what matters to people in those communities, that reflects the local context of that community, and that develops strategies that have a real shot at producing impact in people’s lives.” Rich also mentioned the equally important intention of communities solving problems together and sustaining longevity.

One approach being used to accomplish this effort is the initiative’s Public Innovator Lab. The Harwood Institute hosts programs to engage people in what it means to adopt a mindset of being “turned outward” toward your community. In the case of being “turned outward”, individuals use the community as a reference point. Rich spoke about the Public Innovators Lab that is active in Jackson, Mississippi, after starting the virtual version during the pandemic. Participants are mainly coached for guidance, but given room to personally develop their capabilities. Rich expressed how this approach translates from community to community.

Moving an idea between different communities builds on practices being adapted, and a mindset spreading. Rich brought our attention to the commonality of any great idea or culture shift spreading, which is “a small group of people”. Most of history’s enlightened periods or trends started from a dedicated group of small people coming together. As the idea grows stronger, the small group recruits more people over time. Having a very clear understanding of the idea helps each person share the idea to bring more people, and keep that movement growing and multiplying.

Rich spoke more deeply on the topic of not only articulating an idea but understanding the components of bringing the idea into action through collaborative effort. His perspective on “action” gives an alternative feeling to the saying “actions speak louder than words”. He explained the collaborative mindset and the realizations contained in the creation process needed between community members, or anyone, working to solve an issue. Rich illustrates this point with an example of two women proactively learning to address drug concerns within their community, which later led to the initiative Achieving Recovery Together.

Working towards a solution includes making mistakes, and Rich expressed his own thoughts on trial and error when building a worthwhile initiative. Talking about “trial and error” led us to discuss how change can overlap and the reasons why questions are a great tool for getting started.

If you’d like to learn more, you can visit their website, Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter.

Gain more insight from Rich’s work with his book “Unleashed: A Proven Way Communities Can Spread Change and Make Hope Real for All

Read Full Transcript

Adam: [00:00:00] Welcome to People Helping People, the podcast to inspire greater social change and give you ideas on how to take action. I'm your host, Adam Morris. Today, I am so honored to have Rich Harwood join us. He founded that Harwood Institute over 30 years ago, back in 1988. Their work is centered around developing community conversations that create change and have worked with groups in all 50 States and 40 countries, with a philosophy of civic, faith, and community-driven solutions, basically they're who you call when your community is stuck and doesn't know what to do. His new book "Unleashed, a proven ways communities can spread change and make hope real for all", is available for pre-order now and illustrates how to develop change in a community. Rich is also leading a redesign of the virtual public innovation lab centered on helping you unleash that impact.

So Rich, welcome on the podcast.

Rich: [00:00:53] Good to be with you, Adam. Thanks so much for having me.

Adam: [00:00:56] Can we start off, could you share just a little bit about what the Harwood Institute is?

Rich: [00:01:00] I started back when I was 27. And what we're interested in is how do we bridge divides in communities? How do we build a culture of shared responsibility and how do we make community a real common enterprise? So that communities for all of us, not just for some of us.

Particularly in these times when we're polarized, when things are acrimonious, when we've lost faith in one another and in our institutions, how do we make communities work for everyone, regardless of the color of your skin, regardless of your creed, regardless of what God you pray to, if you pray to any God, regardless of who you love, regardless of your zip code.

I happen to believe that our work really is about how do we ensure that every individual can fulfill their human potential, and how do we make sure that every individual has an opportunity to fulfill America's promise. We know that's not true today. But how do we make it true? And how do we make it real in people's lives. And the Institute, last thing I'll say, and then maybe we can get into this more in a really practical sense is that we, we teach people a practice about how to turn outward. And how to create change in their local communities that reflects what matters to people in those communities, that reflects the local context of that community. And that develops strategies that have a real shot at producing impact in people's lives.

And importantly, just as importantly, for us helps build the civic culture of the community so that we can actually solve problems together over a long period of time.

Adam: [00:02:28] What does that actually look like when you go into a community to help facilitate this change?

Rich: [00:02:33] We're launching in three new communities right now as we speak. But let me tell you about Jackson, Mississippi, which we launched during COVID of all times. We thought we'd have to delay the initiative, but we didn't. So in Jackson, like in many of the communities where we work, we start with what we call a public innovators lab.

As you mentioned in the intro, we have a virtual version of that. We also have one that's place-based that actually happens in person. The one that's place-based is two-and-a-half days. The one that's virtual is five sessions over every week, over a five week period. In that lab we engage people in what it means to adopt a mindset of being turned outward toward your community.

Most of us are turned inward toward ourselves. We're turned inward toward our own organizations, our own strategies, our own metrics, our own fundraising, unfortunately, our own survival, organizationally, many times. And we're not turned outward toward the community where the community is our reference point for what we do, not ourselves on our own strategies.
And then we teach people a series of practices, not techniques, but practices about how to bring themselves into the world and work with other people in a turned outward way. And then from there, Adam, what we do typically like in Jackson is there are about 50 people who went through that lab from all walks of life.

And then we have coaches who walk beside people. They're not consultants. They literally are coaches to help people learn. And there's a huge difference, right? A consultant tells you what to do, and they provide all the answers. They write memos, they lead meetings for you. We don't do any of that.

Adam: [00:04:03] This seems like a cornerstone of the Harwood Institute, right? That, that you're not imposing solutions on a community.

Rich: [00:04:10] We believe that people have innate capacities. That we have the ability to create change ourselves and what Americans, and I think, in working around the world now, but what Americans want more than anything as a sense that they can shape their own futures, that they have a sense of control over their futures.

That we have a sense of agency, we have the ability to do things not only alone, but to come together and do them together and be co-creators of our communities, partners and code builders in our communities. And so our philosophy and our practice is to honor that and to help people develop the capabilities to do that and the conditions within their communities.

So these coaches if they were coaching you, or in the case of Jackson, the five teams that were coaching in Jackson, they walk beside folks and help them adopt and adapt our practice and make it their own. So people can call their own shots in their own communities. These aren't our communities.

I don't live in Columbus where you are. I don't live in Jackson, Mississippi. These are their communities. And what we want to do is enable people in their own communities to shape their own futures in ways that make sense for themselves, their families, their neighbors, their fellow, community members.

And and we've had great luck in doing that so far.

Adam: [00:05:28] If you're listening to this podcast, you can go to the Harwood, and there are stories on there of all these different places where you've gone in and, and facilitated that change. Typically, like what does that look like?

Rich: [00:05:42] So in this case we were doing place-based work. Not all our work is this way, but in this case, in, in many communities, the three communities we're launching in Redding, Pennsylvania, Clarksville, Tennessee, and Lexington, Kentucky about educational equity issues. Those initiatives are going to be 18 months long.

And so our coaches who walked beside people for 18 months in Clark County, Kentucky, which started as an 18 month initiative where I've seen the most rapid change of any place that I've worked in my over 30 years now of doing work, that then morphed into 24 months, that morphed into a few years.

And we're still walking beside them in smaller and smaller ways. And they're doing actually as we pull back in this book on Unleashed that you mentioned when you started we went and looked at communities like Clark County and other communities that we've worked in over the last 30 years. And what we studied was not what happened when we were there.

What I was most interested in is what happened in after the 18 months when we left. And what we saw Adam was that's when most of the change occurred. That's when things really got Unleashed. That's when things started to spread, we're living through this negative contagion of called COVID right now. Our working communities acts like a positive contagion.

This practice that we teach people, this mindset that they adopt. It's built in such a way so that people share it with others. We want them to share it with others. It's not a closed system. It's an open system to be shared. And so in this book, Unleashed what we have are illustrations of how the works spread like a contagion through the community, into different places, into different networks.

And that's where you begin to see real change start to take place. It's where you begin to see the change. Start to spread. It's where you begin to see the civic culture of the community start to transform. And so going back to Clark County, where we started with them when they were stuck during COVID two and a half, three years later, they brought together 60 representatives from different organizations, who two and a half years ago never would have worked together.

Many of whom didn't know each other. Many of them, if they had been brought together would have been protecting their turf and fighting over resources. Now during COVID, they came together to make sure that there were mental health services that kids didn't fall through the cracks during distance, remote learning.

That people that I know you deal with homelessness, that they could begin to address the systemic issues around homelessness and make sure people weren't going to get evicted from their homes or from their rental apartments. And so now they've created this collective response to COVID that two and a half years ago never would have happened.

That all happened after we left. And that's the beauty of this work.

Adam: [00:08:35] I love that. Now, when this work starts, like how many people really need to come together to kick this off the ground?

Rich: [00:08:43] Yeah, that's a really great question. I used to think you know, as much younger and we were doing this work, I used to think it was hundreds of people. And in fact, in some communities, we did bring hundreds of people together to take them through our lab and everything. And then I thought it was 125 people.

And then I thought it was, and in some communities, depending on the size, it's like a hundred people. In Jackson, Mississippi. We just brought together. As I mentioned, about 50 people in these three educational equity communities that we're launching that I mentioned initially, I think it's going to be 25 people.

And what we've learned, essentially the lesson here is that small groups of people. If they come together and can adopt a different mindset and can start to use different practices and how they're going to engage people in these conversations you mentioned, and also spark change beyond the conversations that small groups of people can catalyze that.

And as they catalyze that they can begin to spread these ideas and practices to others. And ultimately over time, you have hundreds of people in a community doing this, but it doesn't have to start with hundreds of people. That's the beauty of it. And and that's actually the power of it. And I think last thing I'll say about this is, I discovered this in our work over time, but if you read about how ideas have spread throughout civilization, if you read about how religion has spread, if you read about how the American revolution started. If you read about how the civil rights movement started, it always started with small groups of people that ultimately spread out over time and enlisted more and more allies as they were going. And our work is no different.

Adam: [00:10:27] And it seems like they need to have something very clear that they can share in order to bring more people into that. And keep that effect growing and multiplying.

Rich: [00:10:36] I think what they have to have is an ability to first understand what really matters to people and an ability to understand that everyone, regardless of their station, life is trying to create a better life for themselves and for others. And so the work is not rooted in simply articulating the problems in society.

Although we need to recognize what those are, the reality that we live in. It's articulating a possibility for the future that's actionable, doable, and achievable. And engaging people in that work and enabling people to be co-creators of that work and sharing the stories of that work over time. I think if you look at all chains, they always seem to have those ingredients.

And this is where I get off the boat with some folks in this work, because some folks believe that, if we simply get together and talk enough, we'll be able to solve our problems. And I happen not to ascribe to that point of view.

I actually think that we do need to articulate what we share in common, because we need to work on things that we share in common in order to come together and do something. But, I also believe that we need to be doers. We need to actually take steps forward and start to create things together. And it's in that creating process that we see and hear one another it's in that creating process that we recognize each other's dignity it's in that creating process that we recognize that you and I and others have innate capabilities.

It's in that creating process that we recognize our shared humanity. It's in that creating process that we recognize that we have agency, we have the ability to change things. And so I think doing things becomes really important. We have a, one of our mantras. We have four mantras in our work. One of our mantras is get in motion and the idea is that we can spend all our time talking and planning and never go anywhere and still feel stuck.

Or we can get emotion and recognize that as we're in motion, we realized that we actually can create something. And when we're creating something, we discover new partners. And when we discover new partners, we discover new pathways. And when we discover those pathways that we may be intended to go down, all sorts of serendipitous things, start to occur that we never could have imagined before.

And other partners start to emerge and appear that we never could have thought we might've worked together with before. And all of a sudden now we're creating things that were never in the cards before, but now we're able to produce together. This is all what we document in this book Unleashed. And it's by simply taking that first step in getting in motion that these things get triggered.

What I call a chain reaction starts to unfold and it's that chain reaction. We really need to concentrate on more in our country.

Adam: [00:13:48] What do some of these steps of creating look like in a community?

Rich: [00:13:52] In Clark County which one of the things that they have suffered from like many communities, it's an opioid and meth crisis. And what they were finding was that when people, widespread opioid meth crisis, and what they found was when people would overdose they would go to the emergency room.

The emergency room would treat people, they would release them and then individuals inevitably would return back to their addiction. They would detox for the moment and then sent off. No directions, no coach, no network to support them, maybe not even a treatment program. So these two women who went through our lab were at church one day and they were learning about this conference.

I think it was in Lexington or Louisville down the road about addiction and substance abuse. And they went to it and they learned that there are alternative ways to engage people who have overdosed from drugs and to support them. And out of that, that gave them the idea that they could create this coaching program in their community in Winchester, Kentucky, where they would take people who were addicts and train them to become coaches so that when someone overdosed and went to the ER, these coaches would meet them at the ER.

And the reason why that was so important is because folks who had overdosed felt judged by people at the ER and didn't feel supported. So they left feeling worse than when they went in. But now when they were met by these coaches could empathize with them because they themselves had been through this.

And not only could they empathize with them, but they then followed them out of the emergency room and got them into treatment. And not only did they do that Adam, they followed them through treatment. And not only did they do that, but they began to help them build networks of support so that they could actually successfully get through treatment.

This works so well, that doctors and the nurses and the clinicians turn to these coaches, the only credential they had, where they were former substance abusers and now coaches. And the other credential they had is they're good, decent people. So these doctors and nurses and clinicians turned to them and said, will you train us in how you do what you do? Think about this total role reversal. Not only did they do this, but women who started this it's called Achieving Recovery Together, created a storefront downtown Winchester. I've been to it, I've seen it. And in the storefront you can walk in and they will hook you up with treatment. They will connect you with networks to support you, they will connect you with job training.

They will, it's a place where you can go and feel like you're at home and you belong. And there's people who support you. People who love you . And so all of a sudden, these two women who went to church one morning and heard this idea who went to a conference who then created this coaching program, who then started training other professionals who then created this storefront.

They're making a real dent in the opioid and meth problem in this community. One last part about this, the kids who we talk to in this community who are going to a blue ribbon school, told us they felt abandoned, not with standing, that they were going to a blue ribbon school because their parents were spending more time finding the resources to get opioid and meth than fixing dinner for them at night and supporting them and loving them. And so now addressing some of that problem as well. This is one example of maybe 50 in that report that got unleashed in that community that got that community moving in a new direction. That's just one small example.

Adam: [00:17:22] What I love about this example is that they didn't start with building the storefront, trying to train doctors. What they started with was finding somebody who would be a suitable coach, who could meet the people at that level and empathize with them. And it sounds like they started with just one coach and going in and meeting, a patient in the hospital.

Rich: [00:17:43] Yeah. And they also started by actually going back, soemthing you, you mentioned really early on is they actually held conversations with folks who were suffering from drug addiction. So they took our community conversation guides and they held those conversations with people who are suffering from addiction or who had come through addiction.

And what those folks in those conversations told them was that. We feel judged in this community. We feel like we're criminals we feel as though no one believes in us. We feel as though no one wants to believe in us. We don't feel supported. We know that we made some bad choices in our lives, but we want to make better choices in our lives.

And in order to do that, We need to feel supported. There needs to be some empathy. We can't keep feeling judged because if you feel those things, you're never going to step forward and say, I want to change. You're never going to show up in a different kind of way. And so those conversations helped inform their work as they were moving forward to, they could meet people where they are and be effective.

And your point about not starting with the storefront, it's such a great point. As Americans, we are conditioned to start with the big ideas, to start with comprehensive plans, to believe that the only thing that holds value and worth are those things that sound sophisticated and complex and complicated.

And one of our mantras I said, we have four mantras. Another one of our mantras is start small to go big and, I'm tired of all these things, these messages, where the folks we work with, they're getting from other people that says the only thing that's valuable or worthwhile is something big and comprehensive and sophisticated and shiny.

And I say to them, that's a bunch of BS, let's start small and eventually you can grow this to go bigger. It'll be more durable. It will be more meaningful or it'll have greater purpose. And by the way, it'll work. And that's what we're really Will this idea work?

Adam: [00:19:45] And when you're starting small, then you're getting that feedback. And so you're adapting something to be the correct solution, as opposed to trying to develop something that it's not going to fit.

Rich: [00:19:54] Exactly. And we think we're supposed to have the answer. And what I've come to learn is that the answer is small T the answer. Only emerges over time through trial and error by starting something and falling down and realizing you made a mistake and getting back up and dusting yourself off and trying it again and iterating through and listening to different people and getting advice.

And that only happens over time.

Adam: [00:20:23] Taking a look at what's happened over time. COVID happened a year ago and the feedback that I've gotten from other people in the community and myself is that we're much more disconnected now. Because we haven't been doing the work in person of going out and talking to our communities. It sounds like you've adapted your approach with your Innovation lab.

And I'm just curious to hear what you've learned and what you've seen happen over this last year.

Rich: [00:20:48] Yeah. I guess there were a couple of different answers to that. One is in terms of what's happened. I think it's worth just taking that first if that's okay. I think two different things have happened. I think on the one hand we, as individuals, feel adrift. I think we feel increasingly lonely and alone and on our own.

I think there is no question that there's been a rise in mental health issues in addiction in divorces and other types of things. I think there's been an enormously difficult period. I wrote a piece not too long ago about hitting the wall. And how do you deal with that?

And so I think there's no question that we're all suffering myself included from going through this. On the other hand, I think what we are witnessing is American ingenuity at its best. I think we have seen in some places people come together and form networks to make sure that seniors and other people who are shut in, are getting food or getting their prescriptions or getting a phone call every day. So they don't feel so lonely and alone. I think we're seeing communities come together for kids who are learning remotely. This happened in Clark County as well as other communities. To form pods and make sure that kids can learn.

We've marshaled our mental health resources in some communities in ways that we didn't before, because the stigma of mental health still prevented people from being able to get the services they needed. I think we've come together and made sure that, as much as hunger has been on the rise that we've responded and marshaled our collective resources around that in ways that we hadn't before.

And I think when I talked to educators that for instance, that this has loosened us up to think more innovatively about when we do return about how we can do things. So one of the things I'm really excited about in terms of education is that we've come to recognize something we've always known, but refuse to do, which is so many of the resources for learning exists outside of schools, in our communities.

Where so much knowledge exists. So much expertise, so much love, so much capability. And so when we go back, I'm sure I'm hoping that we don't think of education as being the school simply supported by some parents. We think of education as being the community supported by the school. So I do think that this period has enabled us to see that we have more innate capabilities. We have more agency. We have more wherewithal that I think we had gotten amnesia about over many years because we expected someone else to do the work for us. So that's been a positive

Adam: [00:23:27] Yeah. So how has this like taking shape with a innovation lab?

Rich: [00:23:31] We had this initiative in Jackson that we wanted to launch, COVID hit, we delayed it for, I don't know, four or five months. And then we looked at ourselves and our partner down in Jackson and we said things aren't getting any better. The community needs this work.

So let's figure out how to launch this during the middle of COVID, post the murder of George Floyd and the economic upheaval that's occurred in the country and the political crisis that we've been engaged in. And so we had a virtual lab for years, but it really it wasn't good enough, honestly.

It wasn't deep enough. It was good for people who had been part of organizations where folks had already been through our in-person lab and these folks were going through it to become part of the group and push things forward. But it wasn't deep enough. It wasn't rigorous enough. It wasn't interactive enough.

I just didn't like it to be honest with you. But we kept doing it and. COVID shook us out of that. I was like if we're going to launch in Jackson, a town that's fraught with all sorts of challenges and lots of good people who want to make a difference, we're going to have to come up with something a hell of a lot better than what we've been doing virtually.

So in something that might have taken us a year, we revamped, we redesigned literally our lab to go virtual. But a totally different product. And the virtual lab that we just launched two weeks ago, nationally is even more revamped than the one we did in Jackson because of what we learned in Jackson, what worked and what didn't work.

And this lab is much better. We didn't add content. We stripped out content. We didn't add things. We made things clear. We realized people needed more to do in between sessions asynchronistic so we added more stuff, a synchronistically. So the whole thing has been redesigned and it's changed the way we think about not only our virtual lab, but now when we start to do it in person, we're actually going to base it on our virtual lab as opposed to the reverse.

The second thing is I was on a speaking tour. About my first book stepping forward, which came out about a year ago, year and a half ago mid 2019. And I went to maybe 20 or 30 communities in three months. Each community had multiple events. So this was, it was really intense. And then COVID hit everything stopped.

And so we asked ourselves. Does that mean that we stop engaging people around these messages and stop bringing people together in communities. And so we decided to launch these virtual round tables across the country, and we didn't know if they would work. We didn't know if anyone would attend. We knew they couldn't be the same types of events we did before.

So we had a totally revamped them, which we did, and they were wildly successful. But that led us to think about that means we could be doing virtual events like this all the time, which has led to different types of things that we're going to be doing, even when we go back to in-person work.

So I could keep going.

Adam: [00:26:37] What did these virtual round tables look like?

Rich: [00:26:40] They had about 50 people in them and they, what we realized was they could only be for 90 minutes. And they began with a question about how in this case, because it was just the height of COVID. How are you feeling coming into this space and what gives you hope? Because we knew to your point about being disconnected, we knew that A, we needed to start people were with where they were, which was how you feeling coming into this space.

But we also knew Adam that we had to pivot really quickly to people feeling a sense of hope about what can happen and a sense of connection to one another. And so we quickly pivoted to the question, what gives you hope today? What are you seeing? And people, all of a sudden would start articulating things that they'd never said before about the things that they were seeing in their communities and their lives among their neighbors that give them hope.

And then we started talking about What are you wrestling with in terms of stepping forward to work with other people now, and people would start to articulate that not simply as obstacles, but as challenges, they wanted to be able to address together to overcome which we did in these 90 minutes.

And then here's the best at the end. So this is what I love about our work so much, because we want to take ourselves out of it. We don't want to be in the middle of it. So I remember in Albuquerque, this guy, Joaquin, but this happened in lots of places said as this round table was ending, he said, thank you Rich for bringing us together, but , no offense, but we don't need you to bring us together. We've gotta be doing this ourselves. And so in different places where we've done these round tables and other events like them, People are finding that they can come together and do this without us. And that's what brings me joy. That's what makes me believe that we can actually create a different kind of society together because we can catalyze people to do things.

We can keep supporting them in different kinds of ways, but they can take the lead. And I think that's, what's really important.

Adam: [00:28:49] So if you can show people how to come together as a community, in a new and effective way, they know that, and they can continue to grow that in their own way that's suitable for them.

Rich: [00:29:01] In Las Vegas where we work, this is part of the book. On least we started. And honestly, a lot of the work that we did in the first 18 to 24 months that we worked there, some of it was highly successful. We work with the public radio station. KMPR. They did amazing things that was in part because they had an amazing leader named Flo Rogers and some other amazing people in the station that we were working with.

We worked with the community foundation that did some good things but a fair amount of our work stalled while we were there, the community wasn't ready, there was resistance to the work. Not everyone loved the idea that we were there which often happens. But here's what happened when we left.

When we left, people used our work to change foster care. When we left people used our work to change how they dealt with homelessness. When we left people use the work to change how they dealt with food security and bringing different groups together. When we left KMPR expanded their work. When we left a guy named Guard Jamison, I started something called the Jamison fellows based on our work.

I just spoke to their fellows. 200 of them. This is 15 years later. I don't know how many years later, something like 15 years later. When we left, I was on someone's podcast who said to me on the podcast, but for your work, I would never even have this podcast and be doing the work that I'm doing in the community today.

I said, come on. His name was Will come on we'll you don't have to be polite to me. He said, no, I'm really serious. And this is all on tape. And all of the things I just mentioned, every single one of them that I just mentioned happened after we left. And that's what you want to see.

That's what you want to see.

Adam: [00:30:38] So you're like the Boulder that gets dropped in the Lake and all the ripples are what create the change afterwards.

Rich: [00:30:45] Yeah. We're like dropping pebbles. Actually. We often say, if you drop a Boulder, you, it splashes and concentric circles and those concentric circles never touch. And then it fades. But if you drop pebbles if your listeners can imagine this, as we're talking together, just get this in your mind, this image, as you drop pebbles, the pebbles drop in different places and think about it. Like when you see pebbles going into a pond, what happens to the ripples? First of all, they ripple out when they ripple out, they begin to touch. And what happens when those ripples touch?

They actually don't overlap one on top of the other. They actually. Envelop one another and create something new. And that creates this effect across the entire pond. If you drop enough of those pebbles in. And so we're pebble droppers in a sense, but the folks who are doing the work are the folks in the community and they're creating these ripples.

And as these ripples ripple out, That's where both actions occur. So you're addressing what we would call fault lines in society like homelessness or the opioid meth crisis or education issues. But the other thing Adam, that you're doing is you're creating a new civic culture. That's where we're creating shared norms, a shared sense of purpose, a shared story, a more productive ways to engage with one another. Leaders who are actually listening and engaged with the community and are trusted by the community.

And that's equally important.

Adam: [00:32:17] Neat. So I have a question for somebody who shows up and they say, Hey, I want to make an impact in my community, but I don't know where to start. They come up and they're like, Hey, I want to do something, but where do I begin? Where can they best jump into create change?

Rich: [00:32:31] Yeah obviously I'd love for them to go to our virtual lab or to go to one of the things that we're doing, but let's suppose they can't, or let's suppose you're in your listeners in Columbus. Just want to get started on their own. And, one thing I might say to them is go to our website.

There's a small tool called Ask. That's just has four questions. Now we have many more questions, but this is like the smartphone version of our engagement process. This is like the easiest thing you can do. And I might take those questions. And if you wanted to do something in your neighborhood, or if you wanted to do something where you go to church or synagogue or mosque, or if you're a part of a book club or you're part of some group.

Or if you have some friends. Use these questions and find out what really matters to people and the types of lives by going through these questions, they will tell you the types of lives you're trying to create. And they'll tell you what they hold in common. And they'll tell you through these questions where you might be able to get started.

And then I would turn to them and say, okay, so this is what we come up with. What do you make of it? And what I can almost guarantee you is someone in the group will say we could do something about X together. We could do something about why this is how these two women in Clark County got started with this opioid meth thing.

It wasn't more complicated than this, and that's how I would get started. And also on our website, we have these four mantras turn outward, which is a disposition, get emotion. Start small to go big and create a new trajectory of hope. Download those mantras they're free. Just print them out, bring them with you with these four questions.

And if you just started with those two things, I can almost guarantee that you can get started. The challenges we face are often more complicated than that, but if you just want to know where you can get started, that's where I would get started. If you're in an organization and you want to get started, but United Way I've worked with Goodwill in Columbus before.

If you're in a church, if you're in a small nonprofit, you can still take these questions and go talk to people you serve and work with in the community. You can still take these four mantras and use them and talk about them at your staff meeting and figure out how you can get in motion. And I guarantee you, you can start, you can create something good.

Adam: [00:34:52] People are already for the next level. How do they find out about the public innovation lab?

Rich: [00:34:56] Go to our website, the Harwood We're redesigning it right now. So in a month, there's going to be a lot more resources, even more resources on it than there are now, but there are a ton of resources on it now, so you can get ahold of them.

Most of them are free. We're very low cost. So that's one thing. 2. You can go to our virtual innovators lab from your home or office and just plug into that. 3. We do work with organizations and groups in communities like we're doing in Jackson. We do work with individual organizations and groups.

So we're working with thousands of public libraries across the country. Or United Ways. And so there are lots of different ways to connect with us. Shoot us an email. And we'd love to talk to you.

Adam: [00:35:39] That's fantastic.

Rich: [00:35:40] If I could just say this, my goal is that people could ultimately in the next few years can get more and more access to our ideas and our practices for no or little cost. I want to democratize our work as much as possible. This is not a business for me. Yes, we need to raise money but this is about how do we change society and that's why I'm in this.

I want to make this work, why we're publishing books. That's why we have podcasts ourselves. It's why we have other resources on our website. I want to make these things as available to people as possible, because I want everyone to be able to have access to this.

Adam: [00:36:19] And if you're listening to this podcast, there are some great talks on YouTube and you can just type in Rich Harwood and a ton of stuff comes up. So a great way to find out more. So I'm curious, like Unleashed is available for pre-order now. When does it set to be published?

Rich: [00:36:35] We're hoping that I think the safest bet is that it'll be published by the end of May, it will be on Amazon. You'll be able to get it on our in Barnes and You'll be able to get it on our website. So the lots of different places to order from. The first book stepping forward, lays out the argument and a way to think about these things. That you can get from Amazon right now or off our website.

This new book Unleashed is rooted in these stories that we collected from these nine communities. They're long stories. So they tell you a lot about what happened. They're illustrations that go with, and that we got an artist to do about how you could see the change spreading throughout the community.

And and then , there are these 10 characteristics that we lay out. About how this change, what we call, how change happens how does change spreads that has really practical implications for people who want to spread change, whether you're using our work or not.

Adam: [00:37:31] fantastic. I always think that those types of stories are super powerful. Because it just gives us a starting point to understand here's what's possible and here's how something can unfold. So even if you can't imagine the entire picture, if you can say, Hey, this is how I start. Here's how somebody else started.

Then that can set you off on a path that will grow over time and create change.

Rich: [00:37:52] It's interesting that you say that. So I was teaching our virtual lab yesterday. We were going over this story from Oak Park, Illinois, about this library. It had a new executive director guy named David Sela and he came in and realized he was new. He came in and realized he needed to create a new strategic plan.

So his work just simply began Adam with this idea that my strategic plan is inward looking. I want an outward looking strategic plan. So he'd go to he thought about that before ever hearing about us. He went to our lab. So his first step was simply to create a new strategic plan. He did that by listening to the community, which made him realize that actually they needed to engage with the community in fundamentally different ways.

That triggered a whole set of actions around dealing with the homeless who were coming into the library. So instead of hiring more librarians, you hired a social worker. That then led them to do trauma informed work that then led them to to do a whole slew of other things, which ultimately led them to create a continuum of care in the community for people who needed support. Which then triggered a whole bunch of other things in the community.

This is one of these stories that you're talking about. But as I was saying to folks yesterday, which you just said yourself, all he knew when he started. This is all he knew. All he knew was that he needed a different strategic plan that was outward looking. That was it. He couldn't have imagined that they were going to create a continuum of care or that ultimately three different organizations were going to team up to create this new summer school inside his library for kids during the summer, or that they were going to create new pop-up libraries throughout the community.

Or that because of the continuum of care, one of the groups was called housing forward, the practice spread to them. They started to use the practice in their own organization. That changed how they were dealing with housing issues in the community. No one knew any of these things, but they all unfolded and it wasn't a grand plan.

It was just a chain reaction.

Adam: [00:40:01] And then it sounds like one of the catalyst for that was really this shift from, this inward looking strategic plan to an outward looking strategic plan where, they were going out and engaging people in the community to actually learn about who they were and what their needs were.

Rich: [00:40:17] Exactly. And what, we route our work in people's aspirations, not a utopian vision, but your aspirations, which typically come from your gut. If I had asked you, what's your aspiration for your community or for your life, you'd tell me something again, that's usually actionable, doable and achievable, right?

Because it's something meaningful to you. And what they heard from people, park was, we want a more inclusive community. Too many people are getting left behind. We want a community where everyone has an opportunity to learn. We want a community where people don't have to move because it's gotten so expensive to live here.

We want a community that's more fair and equitable and treats people with dignity. So these were people's aspirations for a community that thought that they had all these things, but what they, when they actually engage, people said, no, that's a community that we once created 20 or 30 years ago. But as we have grown and change, that's no longer who we are.

That's who we were, it's who we want to become, but it's not who we are. So let's work on who we want to become now. Based on who we are right now, not who we were 20, 30 years ago. And those shared aspirations became the basis for this chain reaction

Adam: [00:41:35] So you start by finding those shared aspirations by pulling people together from different places in the community and having those conversations.

Rich: [00:41:44] Yes. And recognizing. That we actually do have real differences. We do hold different beliefs. The goal here is not to reach consensus nor is it to make us all agree on everything, nor is it to make our society homogeneous. It's with a rich diversity of our society that we can come to understand that there are enough things that we share in common.

That let's focus on those things. Not those things that divide us, let's focus on the things that we do share in common that we can work on together so that we can get in motion and catalyze this chain reaction. And then what we realize is that as that chain reaction starts to occur and we gain greater momentum and greater civic confidence that we can begin to take on some of those larger fault lines and divisions in our community that we thought before we couldn't. And we can begin to tackle those and make greater progress on those deeper, more underlying issues.

Adam: [00:42:48] It's almost like you're building up some teamwork around the shared ground that you have so that you've got those bonds and that connection to, to take on these bigger divisions that exist.

Rich: [00:43:01] Yeah. What I like to think is that we're recreating a sense that community is a common enterprise and that we need a culture of shared responsibility. And we need to see and hear one another and we need to afford each other dignity amid our differences and that when we begin to relay that foundation in our society, we can begin to build on it more and more over time.

Adam: [00:43:23] Thank you so much for sharing that and all the work that you've done to build that up.

Rich: [00:43:28] Yeah, it's been fun. It's been hard. It's been hard and much like you described before when I started this, I was a kid, I was 27 years old. What did I really know and idea. I had eight questions that I put up on a whiteboard that I wanted to answer, which is what propelled our work forward. We didn't have any answers.

We had these questions and our work really has been about how do we innovate over time with people to find answers to these questions and new questions that we've discovered along the way. And so our work has just kept building and kept unfolding and kept changing and evolving. And our conversation about our virtual lab is another example of even after 30 years, we're flipping stuff on its head because we're realizing that the world has changed around us.

And technology has changed and people are facing different challenges. And so our work needs to change as well. And how we approach it.

Adam: [00:44:24] I love what you're doing. Just personally, it's what propelled me into this work of just the simple question of how do we actually. Connect with each other as a community and create a better society, a place that's just not as separating or not as focused on going to work, earning money and leaving whoever else behind, but something that we can do together to just have a better life overall. I'm very inspired by what you've done.

Rich: [00:44:55] Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to be on with you.

Adam: [00:44:59] Thanks so much for joining on the podcast today. It has been a real honor to have you on as a guest to hear your story. I'm so glad to share what the Howard Institute is about and how you're creating change in communities around the world. So it's just at the heart of everything we're about on the People Helping People Podcast.

So thank you.

Rich: [00:45:18] Thank you. And thanks for having this podcast and sharing lots of peoples stories, not just the institutes. So thanks.

Adam: [00:45:25] If you're listening visit the Harwood you can order a copy of the Unleashed. You can find additional resources. You can get the answer to the question on. How we go about intentionally unleashing the innate potential of people and groups and communities to address our common challenges and at the same time, create a civic culture in which people come together to shape their own lives and gain real hope about their future. That is what the book Unleashed is going to teach you. So check that out. And as always, there'll be more resources in the show notes on

So thank you so much for tuning in and Rich, thank you so much for joining us.

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