FEATURE S A TRO T IRCYL E
The Ripple Effect: How change spreads in communities By Richard C. Harwood
Richard C. Harwood is founder and president of the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation. This document was prepared by the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation in collaboration with the Kettering Foundation.
he “Ripple Effect” is about
Amid this backdrop, commu-
their efforts to help bring it about?
h ow c h a n g e h a p p e n s i n
nity-based strategies are enjoying
This is what The Harwood Institute
something of a revival. Many foun-
for Public Innovation, with support
It comes at a time when people
dation executives and national and
from the Kettering Foundation,
throughout the country yearn to find
local leaders believe progress is more
sought to answer. More specifically:
alternatives to prolonged political
likely to come at the community level
How does change move from
gridlock, toxic public discourse and
than it is nationally. The very idea
distinct “pockets” to the broader
mistrust in a whole host of institu-
of collective impact and its poten-
community — what does it take;
tions, organizations, and leaders.
tial for community change is gaining
who is involved?
At a time when significant trends,
currency. Indeed, there is a growing
which have emerged over previous
desire to figure out how communities
build over time in a community?
decades, are reshaping society —
can marshal their collective talents,
• What does it mean — and take
including dramatic shifts in family
assets, and people to address tough
— for a community to learn as
structure, widening income gaps, an
challenges. Communities are where
uneven economy that undermines
people live; collective action is what
the vitality of many communities
makes communities work.
and poor education systems that fail
But how does such change hap-
to give many youth a real shot at the
pen — and spread? What’s in play?
And how can one be intentional in
• How does momentum for change
it goes? • Where does the narrative of a community fit into whether the community can make progress or not? Start with embracing what we already know There are certain realities about how change happens in communities that often seem ignored, despite what we already know. For instance, change in communities seldom happens in a comprehensive way all at once, though we keep trying. There is no such thing as a “big bang” notion of change — and yet we long for communities to re-invent themselves through some spontaneous combustion. Nor does change occur merely because
THE ILLINOIS SCHOOL BOARD JOURNAL / JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2017