Customized Solutions

Innovate on the toughest challenges facing communities

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Each year, Rich Harwood chooses a few, select efforts to lead personally.

These projects usually require particular care, thought, and attention. They simultaneously allow the Institute to be on the front lines of innovation and be helping solve some of the most challenging issues for organizations and communities.

The Harwood Institute is arguably the largest road-tested, market-tested R&D project of its kind in the entire United States. We have invested $75 million over the past 30 years into finding new, innovative solutions to society’s biggest and most pressing problems. This comes both from a desire to make progress on large social problems as well as a commitment to discovery and applied knowledge. 

Even as our practice of Turning Outward has gained prominence and spread across the globe, we never lose track of our roots. We’re committed to creating new knowledge and innovations on the toughest challenges facing communities and society. 

Highlights of customized solutions:

Making the Invisible Visible

Too often change in communities remains invisible to those in the larger community, even to those creating it. This undermines a sense of progress, possibility and civic confidence. With support from the Kettering Foundation, this effort is developing a new set of mechanisms and tools that enable people and groups to make visible – and name – the change they are creating and to serve ongoing civic learning and a larger, can-do narrative.

Scaling Impact While Remaining Fiercely Local

Working with the United Way of Greater Toronto—the world’s largest local United Way—to develop a new roadmap for how to scale their work and impact regionally, across the Ontario province and nationally while remaining deeply relevant to local communities. This effort also addresses the implications for the internal structures, governance, talent and organizational culture to support this new approach.

Forging Network Solution on Thorny Issue

Leading Goodwill Industries International, the $5 billion social enterprise, to pull back from its contentious practice of paying sub-minimum wage to people with disabilities, once highlighted on CBS’s 60 Minutes. Worked with scores of local affiliate CEOs and national leadership to forge common ground and spark change.

Dealing with the Aftermath of a Massacre

Being called into Newtown CT, after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 first-graders and six adults dead, to design and lead the public process for the community to collectively decide the fate of the school building. Focused intently on helping the community pivot from trauma and despair to healing and hope.

Moving from “Compliance Offices to Chief Innovators”

Designing and leading a new network of Hawaii school superintendents to refocus their mission from being isolated implementers of education requirements to being chief innovators for bringing schools and communities together to create a shared responsibility for educating Hawaii’s children.

Creating a New Funders Roadmap

Enabling funders and their partners to build stronger alignment, trust and impact in their work together in communities. Based on our framework, Community Rhythms: The Five Stages of Community Life, the roadmap lays out the different types of investments and support that will help a community in different stages move forward and the milestones to gauge progress.