A Major Step for Us: Why we're going online

Today, I'm excited to tell you that we're making a major down payment on opening up our ideas, frameworks and tools so that anyone, anywhere, can use them, at anytime. We are launching Harwood Online. This is a pivotal step in the evolution of our work. Especially in these hard times, people want to make their efforts in public life more relevant, effective, and connected to communities and the people who live there. I want to do everything I can to support them. So, here's why and how, we're moving in this direction. A couple of years ago, the Board and Staff at Harwood decided it was time to move from a projects-based organization focused on public innovation, to an organization focused on getting our learnings of twenty years out to Public Innovators everywhere.

While the projects we work on are terrific, their benefits often remain with the people we are working with. Even the individuals, organizations and communities using our work have been limited in how they can share and spread the work with others. It just has not been in a form that they can easily grab hold of.

Increasingly, the question on my mind became: How can we fulfill our mission to create hope and change, so that people everywhere can tap their own potential to make a difference and join together to forge a common future. Simply doing good work wasn't enough.

So, we set out to cull the essential innovations we had developed over the years, and make them more readily available. I didn't want us to be in the way of anyone who wanted to create hope and change. What's more, I didn't want cost, or complexity, or capacity to stand in the way, either. Too many good and necessary initiatives stall because funding runs out, or a funder pulls out. There's an underlying equity issue here for me; everyone should be able to use these innovations, and no one should be stymied simply because funding expires or they have limited access to funding.

But merely putting up "information" online isn't enough, either. People want to be able to make sense of the challenges facing them; they seek pathways forward; and they yearn for a sense of possibility. We set up the site in service of these key aspirations.

On the site, you'll be able to learn about our ideas, frameworks and tools, but even more, the site is a platform for you and others to create your own knowledge about your community, your own common understanding of your challenges, and your own common agreement of how you want to move ahead.

Indeed, you can use the site as a platform to form groups for working together, using the frameworks together, and sharing ideas together. You'll also be able to find other public innovators across the country who are working on similar challenges, including those who have used one of our frameworks (think about connecting with people who used the Community Rhythms framework, who are in the "Catalytic Stage", and want to discuss how to move a community in that stage forward!).

I hasten to add that the online site is a part of a series of new opportunities we'll be unveiling in the coming months to support people who want to create hope and change. What all these opportunities have in common is an unwavering commitment to open up our ideas, frameworks, and tools so that people can make them their own and to remove barriers of cost and complexity.

I want to thank a number of funders that supported this effort, especially Pierre and Pam Omidyar, and the Omidyar Network. In addition, I wish to thank Sterling Speirn and the Kellogg Foundation, David Mathews and the Kettering Foundation, and William White and the Mott Foundation. Let me also thank Eric Rigaud, Christine Donohoo, and Aaron Leavy on my staff who did yeoman's work to make this site possible. And, Tanya Renne at Orchid Suites, our technology partner, whose own innovation and creativity helped us get here.

Consider today's launch a down payment. No doubt, there will be bugs; there's content still to fill in, and there are many other frameworks and tools we will be adding. But, I'm thrilled to make this start. For me, this is all about how we, together, can create hope and change in our communities. It is about how we build a stronger, more just, public life, where all people, have a voice, a place, and a pathway to make good on their urge to do good. Let us know what you think of the site, and how you can put it to use.