Political Surprises: The Good Kind
State of the Re:Union’s contributor Rich Harwood of the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation is away hosting a Forum for the betterment of public innovation. This week, Carlton Sears – a Harwood Institute coach and guest writer – offers the following post telling of his recent experience resulting in a pleasant surprise. It speaks to the work and change that the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation is striving to achieve for – and in – American communities. (To read the original full text, click here.)
Every so often you get an email that stops you in your tracks. We all get them – unexpected words of encouragement, insights that provide clarity at times of uncertainty, a gentle reminder that causes us to reconsider.
It came from an elected leader. But not just any elected leader. It was from an elected official who’s been coached in the Harwood frameworks this past year. He’s a person who decided there is a better way to govern. He was writing to share how Turning Outward is helping him to do it. But this isn’t what gave me pause. It was what he had to say about aspirations.
I met him a year ago when he attended a Harwood Public Innovators Lab. When he returned home from the lab, he was encouraged to engage people in conversations that began with aspirations. Here’s what he said:
An enormous amount of what we are hearing in our Harwood community conversations is highly emotional, personal, and significant. If I had to identify the single most unifying thing I’ve heard, it’s that people want to start caring about each other again.
He shared that he’s heard people’s fears that we don’t know how to make this happen. And he’s heard their hope that we can.
His message went on to say that as an elected leader and a person deeply involved with the Harwood Institute’s tools, his passions are now fired. Now, finally, he can clearly see the frustrations, and finally understand the aspirations of the people he serves.
It’s like a light bulb went off. I suddenly see the overlap between my work and my role as an elected policy maker.
He now sees how all the pieces of civic change fit together. He sees that he has the ability to influence the movement of those pieces that will result in the kind of change for which people yearn … Let’s work together to make sure that next year at this time we’ll have even more for which to give thanks.
Taking the community and the people it serves into account is the epitome of what civic engagement should be. The betterment of our towns, neighborhoods and lives does not solely rest upon the leaders of our communities; that possibility resides within each member of the community. It is through the act of coming together to find solutions that we become unified and find that resolve is reinforced. We are the ultimate force behind the hope in public change.
A dynamic public speaker, Rich Harwood is a frequent keynote for foundations and national organizations. He is an expert contributor on national and syndicated media outlets including MSNBC, NPR, The Christian Science Monitor, CNN’s Inside Politics, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Special Report with Brit Hume, C-SPAN, and many others. He is also the author of Hope Unraveled: The people\’92s retreat and our way back (2005), Make Hope Real: How we can accelerate change for the public good (2008) and numerous studies, articles and essays chronicling vital issues of our time. His most recent written work, Why We\’92re Here: The Powerful Impact of Public Broadcasters When They Turn Outward, is being published and distributed in Spring 2011. You can follow him on twitter @RichHarwood and facebook.com/richharwood.
You can read Rich’s posts every Tuesday on State of the Re:Union’s website.