This blog is part of an online learning platform which includes the Pathways to New Community Paradigms Wiki and a number of other Internet based resources to explore what is termed here 'new community paradigms' which are a transformational change brought about by members of a community.

It is intended to offer resources and explore ideas with the potential of purposefully directing the momentum needed for communities to create their own new community paradigms.

It seeks to help those interested in becoming active participants in the governance of their local communities rather than merely passive consumers of government service output. This blog seeks to assist individuals wanting to redefine their role in producing a more direct democratic form of governance by participating both in defining the political body and establishing the policies that will have an impact their community so that new paradigms for their community can be chosen rather than imposed.

Friday, January 24, 2014

CommunityMatters knows Harwood and Harwood knows what Matters for the Communities to Change

This blog post is going to take a closer look at the recently updated Organizational, Online and Technology Based Community Change Agencies wiki-bridge. Wiki-bridge pages address topics that cross over more than one area of concern. Change agent organizations for communities and change agent efforts by communities were seen as involving Governance and Place respectively.

Yet, despite the focus of this blog being paradigm changes by communities, little has been done directly on these pages dealing with any community change strategies. New means of community governance, different ways of looking at the local economy, inquiries into complexity, design thinking, systems thinking and democratic directed disruptive design have helped frame the issues but not anything on the actual means of change or the available resources that would help bring it about. How do you go about transforming something that has been in existence for decades, if not centuries and that is such a fundamental part of the fabric of our lives? Why is it that so often when we do try, we fail?

There has though been interaction outside of these pages with activity among different LinkedIn groups and the accumulation of a number of different organizations, the later of which have now been added to the Community Change Agencies Organizational, Online and Technology Based wiki-page. 

One of particular interest is the Harwood Institute introduced to members of the NCDD Linkedin Group by Sandy Heierbacher, the Director of the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) to through a webinar that NCDD (wiki-page) hosted.

The webinar provides an overview of the Harwood Institute’s key framework for assisting in exploring the means and accelerating efforts to engage the community by ‘turning outwards’.

The approach Harwood Institute has developed in helping cities, organizations, and individuals speaks to the stages a community must go through before it is ready to be empowered based on community conversations, constant innovation, and nationwide research and is built on public aspirations to get things done for the common good.

The Harwood Institute's approach to change and community building is dependent upon "community rhythms" as President and Founder Rich Harwood explains in this video. 

A report (pdf) on the approach, Community Rhythms, Five Stages of Community Life, is available through NCDD.

Communities have rhythms to them that we must come to understand so that our approaches, programs and initiatives — and the building of public capital — work with those rhythms, take advantage of them, even accelerate them. This 1999 report from the Harwood Institute describes five stages of community life: The Waiting Place, Impasse, Catalytic, Growth, and Sustain and Renew. 

                                                                                                        Sandy Heierbacher 

The Waiting Place

In the Waiting Place, people in the community often hold a deep sense that things are not working right but cannot quite put their finger on exactly what it is or what to do about it; it is a kind of “felt unknown.” The situation has not reached an impasse, a breakpoint, at which people say, “enough is enough!”


Here a community hits rock bottom. When you visit such a community, you can hear people saying such things as, “it can’t go on like this anymore,” or “enough is enough!” While in the Waiting Place there is a sense of simply “waiting”... in Impasse there is a noticeable sense of urgency in people’s voices. Things have crystallized for people and the need for action is clear. Often people are afraid that they are losing their future; they are tired of “waiting.”


During this stage, a small group of people and organizations emerge to take risks and experiment in ways that challenge existing norms of how the community works. In addition, people within their community begin to discover that they share common aspirations for their community and that they can, in small ways, start to make a difference.


Over the course of this stage, Centers of Strength will be expanding; networks growing and spreading; a sense of common purpose and direction taking deep root. People within the community now see clear and unmistakable signs of how the community is moving forward and can see and feel and experience much greater leadership at all levels of the community — from the official level, to neighborhoods, within civic organizations and non-profits.

Sustain and Renew

A community in the Sustain and Renew stage must find ways to bring along new Centers of Strength, new leaders and a new cadre of citizens to be the spark plugs. Without them, the community will stagnate and possibly enter a new stage of decline.

This is in contrast to “The Organization-First Approach” more likely to be adopted by intermediary civic organizations, including city halls, that by pulling inward toward their own organizational structure raise the danger of allowing programs and professionalization to crowd out the community. The report was developed by the Harwood Institute for the Kettering Foundation (which is featured in the Governance through Community wiki-page). The report, among a number of other key reports and books, is also available here.

The Harwood Institute also makes available for download a simple set of tools called “Harwood in a Half Hour” that can be used in working with a community to start to help shift the approach to community building. The LinkedIn Harwood Public Innovators Resource Group provides an opportunity for like minded individuals to share tips, tools and information on turning outward, all to help motivated individuals become Public Innovators.

The Harwood Institute has worked in economically distressed and struggling communities such as Newark, Detroit, and Flint, Michigan. They have enhanced their relevance and impact in the communities they serve by creating a group of “Beacon Communities” to develop a critical mass of public innovators and partnering with influential organizations like United Way Worldwide, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the American Library Association.

Last year, Rich Harwood, facilitated a series of meetings in the grieving city of Newtown, Connecticut to help decide what to do with Sandy Hook Elementary School, the site of the horrific mass murder of children and school personnel the previous December. The philosophy which guided the work in Newtown and brought about an emotional, yet harmonious, decision was based on a guiding principle, found in Rich Harwood’s latest book The Work of Hope, that fixing our politics shouldn’t be our top priority.  According to Rich Harwood, “The central task in our society is to restore belief in ourselves and one another that we can get things done, together.

Another private organization taking a similar bottom-up, inside out approach to community building from perhaps a more technical perspective with its own take on Social Ecology through The Science of Community is the JKA Group, which also has its own LinkedIn group, Social Ecology: The Science of Community.  The concept of Social Ecology meshes with concepts introduced earlier in Seeing Economy and Community as Ecosystem Another Way of Shifting the Paradigm concerning rebuilding local economies,  So how do we start building Wise Economies?  Economies = Communities = Ecosystems.

Finally, at least for this post, is CommunityMatters, also with its own LinkedIn group has hosted a number of conference calls of interest to this effort.  One of the primary objectives of this effort was to gather resources to assist in the creation of new community paradigms and CommunityMatters offers a treasure chest full. More will be done on CommunityMatters in the future in exploring the partnerships they have formed, many of which are already featured in the New Community Paradigms wiki such as Project for Public Spaces, NCDD (National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation), Strong Towns, AmericaSpeaks, Everyday Democracy, Deliberative Democracy Consortium, and the Harwood Institute, other relevant organizations agencies such as Connecting Communities Learning Exchange, Orton Family Foundation, Grassroots Grantmakers, New America Foundation, The National Consortium for Creative Placemaking, Heart & Soul Community Planning, The Center for Communication and Civic Engagement, Harvard - ASH Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and their Project on Social Innovation will also be explored and added in future posts.  

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