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we are able to corral a wide array of

Catalytic, Growth, and Sustain /

enough attention to fostering the

leaders who say they are willing to

Renew. Ignoring the stage that a

right enabling environment, then we

work together. Or because “enough”

community is in often leads to

are not in tune with the community.

funding has been aggregated. And

strategies that simply do not fit that

At such moments, it is often possible

the use of data and evidence-based

community’s context. With the best

to hear people in a community say,

decision making — while important

of intentions, we can be starting at

“Why is the approach we’re using

— is no guarantee either.

the wrong place, with the wrong set

working in other communities but

of actions.

not in our own?” And, “Despite our

These and other approaches can be seductive — and they may work

The Harwood Institute has also

best efforts, why is our communi-

in some communities, for a period of

identified a set of underlying condi-

ty not moving forward faster?” Or,

time. But in order for communities to

tions in a community (called “public

“Why, despite our heroic efforts, are

move forward, we need to take into

capital’’) that, together, help to create

we not making more progress?”

account how communities naturally

an enabling environment for change.

evolve and change.

These factors include different

A different way to move forward

layers of leadership, organizations,

The Ripple Effect is based on a

Being in tune with the

and groups that span boundaries

different way of thinking about how


and bring people together, conscious

change comes about, takes root,

One way to think about this

community conversation and net-

and spreads in a community. Some

evolution is that communities go

works for learning and innovation.

of the key ideas underpinning this

through stages. In previous research,

The problem is that in most com-

approach include:

The Harwood Institute found that

munities, the enabling environment

• Our efforts can help to shape

there are five stages in all, each with

is weak and must be strengthened

a community, but we cannot

its own implications — a set of do’s

in order for a community to work

and don’ts — for how a community

together and make progress.

impose our will on a community. • Change in a community tends

can make progress. In the Harwood

When approaches and strategies

to emerge over time.

Index, the five stages of community

for change don’t take into account

• The key is to understand where

life are The Waiting Place, Impasse,

a community’s stage and don’t pay

and how to get started — what’s

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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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