In October AARP volunteers and staff from 30 communities participated in the Harwood Institute's Public Innovators Lab, which was held at AARP’s Midwest Regional Office in Chicago. We were touched when we received a letter from Josephine Chang about her experience at the Lab. We would like to share her letter with you: To Rich and all the Harwood Staff,
Thank you for creating and making the Public Innovators Lab available to everyday people like myself, a retired person and a community volunteer.
It is very interesting that the longer I ponder the Lab's messages, the more it seems complex. However, I feel that there has been a subtle but important shift in my thinking. We stay so much within our own minds now, and within a limited circle of like minded friends/colleagues and really do not engage or have the opportunity to share in the living thoughts of the many "others" in our own communities; that what should be so natural now requires effort to do.
While the Lab participants were a limited selection of the "outside world", they did demonstrate some of the essence of the Lab's message, to turn outward and it may not be so difficult or painful if we just try it. Many of us found kindred spirits among total strangers, an idealism and belief in doing good with our lives, and a belief that we could each make a difference in our communities. We found commonalities and shared efforts.
I believe Harwood's Lab was trying to tell us that we have to be truly inclusive and welcoming of many more people in our efforts if our efforts, are going to matter to a significant amount of the community, gain their support, and have the impact that many of us hope for. If we do not hear more of the people, and they do not have positive avenues for being heard, there will continue to be widespread disconnection, apathy, and/or discord. If we want to be part of building an involved community for the public good, it is important that we really try to shift "outward".
Much Aloha and Mahalo, Josephine (Jo) Chang, diversity volunteer with AARP Hawaii