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ripe for positive movement —

host of cascading effects. As initial

and more resilient community that

and then how to actively grow

ripples of action spread, momentum

can adapt to future challenges.


in a community starts to build, the

These are insights for all of us

• We must develop a communi-

public will for working together in

who hold affection for communities,

ty’s enabling environment for

new ways along with a growing sense

seek to strengthen them and tackle

change — the conditions for

of common purpose emerges, the

their pressing challenges. At the

innovation, emergence, and

community’s capacity for change

heart of this story is how people and

spreading change.

expands and deepens, and a new can-

groups have created a common frame

do narrative takes shape. Over time,

of reference for how they see the

what one sees is that a community is

community, its challenges, and

able to generate all-important stay-


• Intentionality in our engagement and actions is essential. • Finally, we must work with the community, not apart from it.

ing power to stick with efforts and

What all this adds up to is the

engage with entrenched issues; it is

Editor’s Note

need to embrace the idea that change

able to use its newly formed capacity

spreads in a community. This hap-

to address new issues that arise. The

pens when a certain dynamic is

result is short-term wins, longer-term

unleashed that sets in motion a whole

sustainability, and a much stronger

This article is excerpted with permission from “The Ripple Effect: How change spreads in communities.” In the remainder of the full report, the Harwood Institute illustrates The Ripple Effect through the progress of the city of Battle Creek, Mich., over a period of about six years. Battle Creek’s story is emblematic of the type of change The Harwood Institute sees in its work each and every day in communities of all sizes and shapes.

Policy Services Streamline the preparation, distribution, and publishing of agenda packets.

An accessible, affordable, and always available online board packet creation service, with digital and/or paper packet viewing. Schedule a webinar with Brian Zumpf at 630/629-3776 ext. 1214,; or Tony Pintarelli at

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This ad will run in the Jan-Feb issues of the Journal.

The Illinois Association of School Boards encourages boards of education to engage their communities. IASB’s Foundational Principles of Effective Governance note that the primary task of the school board is to continually define, articulate, and re-define district ends to answer the recurring question: “Who gets what benefits for how much?” In order to define those ends and clarify the district’s vision, mission, and goals, the school board needs to connect with its community around the aspirations that people have for their local schools. We offer the Harwood Institute’s insights and perspective here as part of IASB’s ongoing community engagement conversation.

Resources Read the full report, including THI’s work in Battle Creek, Mich., here: The Harwood Group, Community Rhythms: The Five Stages of Community Life. Flint, Mich.: The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation (1999). The Harwood Group, Public Capital: The Dynamic System that Makes Public Life Work. Dayton, Ohio: The Charles F. Kettering Foundation (1996). Connecting with the Community, IASB’s Community Engagement piece:


The Illinois School Board Journal, January/February 2017  

A bimonthly magazine for public school board members and administrators highlighting issues in education.

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