Beacon Communities – creating national proof-points to demonstrate we can still get things done together.

In Beacon Communities we work with partners to develop a critical mass of Public Innovators and Boundary Spanning Organizations who are ready to work together so that together they can to help shift the civic culture of a community and take action on a key issue.

The Institute’s strategic goal over the next two years is to forge partnerships with a small handful of Beacon Communities that will serve as clear, recognizable “proof points” locally and for the nation. These communities will help restore people’s faith that we can get things done together.

In a Beacon Community, the work focuses on:

  1. Creating a critical mass of Public Innovators and Boundary Spanning Organizations that work together to drive change in the community.
  2. Building community conditions for sustaining change: a new civic culture of norms, networks and relationships and a can-do narrative that encourages action and organized spaces for interaction.
  3. Making tangible progress on a community issue.

The first of these Beacon Communities – Battle Creek, Michigan – is up and running and several others will be coming on line starting in 2013. Communities such as Las Vegas, Youngstown, and Sarasota have all expressed interest in becoming Beacon Communities.

Our work in Beacon Communities leverages the following Harwood implementation elements to drive innovation and create an environment in which others in the community can adopt and adapt the Harwood approach to their efforts.

If you’ve been using the Harwood approach locally and are interested in being considered as a Beacon Community contact Jennifer Barton, Director of Operations.

Beacon communities have impact at three levels:


    • Visible progress on a targeted issue
    • Changes in community conditions and culture around the depth and diversity of leadership, norms around engagement, and can-do narratives that encourage action
    • More focused, aligned, and effective community based strategies
    • More Boundary Spanning Organizations that are Turned Outward, ready to partner in new ways and drive community change
    • Critical mass of Public Innovators to more strategically lead change, and form stronger informal networks for shared learning and innovation

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    • Deeper understanding of community context, people’s aspirations, and their concerns leading to stronger positioning and relevance within the community
    • Greater alignment of resources, strategies, programs, and practices around shared community aspirations
    • Sought-after partner while strengthening ability to make more strategic partnership decisions – clarity around groups you want to run with
    • Strong capacity to apply new community learning and a skill in innovation, not just planning
    • New stories for strategic communications

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  • More intentional choices and judgments
  • Increased knowledge of community, its context, aspirations and concerns, and a stronger sense of how to align efforts with the community to achieve impact
  • Commitment to Turning Outward and focusing on community along with new competencies and tools around engagement
  • More strategic in their relationships, use of time, and decision making with the focus on impact rather than merely activities.
  • Stronger connection to their urge within/higher purpose

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