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Session Notes: Harwood Institute

This is part of a series of Session Notes from grantees who have received Professional Development grants from the Office of Commonwealth Libraries. Each grantee will share their professional development experience and include tips and other resources from the workshop or class. Grantees had their choice of an article for the Compendium, a webinar or a podcast. This project was made possible by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Sue Erdman,
Joseph T. Simpson Public Library

The Harwood Institute’s Turning Outward approach means using your community as the main reference point for decisions – from the strategies you and your partners pursue, the partners you choose, how you start and then grow your efforts over time, and how you structure and run your internal organization.

This approaches teaches people to:

  1. Identify community issues rooted in people’s shared aspirations.
  2. Develop strategies that fit their community’s context.
  3. Create the community conditions that enable change to take hold.
  4. Forge relationships with the right partners to run with.
  5. Build networks for innovation and learning.
  6. Adopt the right metrics to gauge progress.
  7. Cultivate can-do narratives in their organizations and the community.

Turning Outward questions:

  1. Am I Turned Outward toward the community?
  2. Are my actions rooted in people’s shared aspirations?
  3. Could I stand up on a table and talk to people about their community, their aspirations and concerns, and would they believe me?
  4. Do I reflect the reality of people’s lives and do they believe I have their best interests at heart, even when we disagree?
  5. Am I living up to the pledges and promises I have made?
  6. Am I staying true to my urge within?

The Turning Outward approach is broken down into five key areas:

  1. Understanding my community
  2. Being turned outward
  3. Creating conditions for change and sustainability
  4. Deciding on the right path
  5. Making an agreement with myself

This workshop provided a thorough understanding of the community conversation process and included an explanation of:

1. Understanding public vs. expert knowledge
2. How to get started with a community conversation
3. How to define “community:
4. Steps for recruiting participants
5. Where to hold community conversations
6. How to identify conversation leaders
7. Tips for leading conversations and conducting conversations
8. Ways to present and share public knowledge resulting from conversations

As explained by the Harwood Institute, often, even the most well-intentioned leaders and organizations are turned inward, which leads to decisions that often do not reflect the reality of people’s lives, do not engender credibility and trust, and push people away at a time when we know that people are hungry to find common ground and get things done.

This workshop provided practical actions to take to change your mindset from inward to outwork and to apply it to your own challenges and context, and create your own path forward with an ultimate goal of creating greater impact and relevance in what we do, and to strengthen how our community works.

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