← Back to Approach

Our Practice: Turn Outward

A practice to help you create more relevance and impact.

We have a philosophy of Civic Faith and the Turning Outward practice allows you to act on it.

Too many leaders and organizations are turned inward, focused—often unintentionally—on themselves and their organizations at the expense of their communities.

We are all frustrated by this. The result: too many initiatives and projects fail to produce real progress in moving a community forward. Too many efforts take a one-size-fits all approach. Too many solutions are imposed upon communities. These missteps make problems seem even more insurmountable and destroy our public will and confidence to get things done together.

We have distilled 30 years of innovation and over 75 million dollars of investment into arguably the largest R&D project related specifically to making change happen in local communities. Our practice of Turning Outward is a time-tested, road-tested practical way of making lasting change in communities.

The practice is rooted in an orientation—a mindset, a stance—of using the community as your reference point for creating change, and not your conference room. Turning Outward provides the frameworks and tools to make more intentional choices and judgments to produce greater impact and relevance in your community.

Turning Outward helps us get off the path of the status quo, of business as usual, and onto a new path of possibility and hope.

Turning Outward is Rooted in Five Big ideas

4.) A Focus on Impact and Belief

We believe in impact. Equally important, but often overlooked, is “belief.” Belief is that intangible factor that prompts and prods people to step forward and engage; makes people willing to join with others; and enables people to transcend their self interests to forge common interests. How you do your work is as important as what you do. We’ll show you how to engender impact and belief.

1.) Community Ownership

Taking effective action in communities depends on genuine ownership by the larger community. Data is an important piece of this, but not enough. Beyond expert knowledge, we value public knowledge, which comes only from authentically engaging the community. We show you how to build public knowledge, combine it with expert knowledge, use it to align community efforts, and gain new allies.

5.) The Story a Community Tells Itself

The stories people tell about community shape their mindsets, attitudes, behaviors, and actions. These stories affect people’s sense of possibility and hope. They are the greatest hidden factor to whether a community moves forward or not. Our approach will help you learn how to create authentic, “can-do” narratives that combat negative ingrained narratives and give people a sense of hope the community is on a new trajectory.

2.) Strategies that Fit the Community

Why do some communities move forward and others remain stuck? Our approach helps you understand that communities are in one of five stages—and the key is to know which stage a community is in at any given time. Each has its own implications—or do’s and don’ts—for creating change, including the strategies you choose, how fast you can go, expectations for change, and how you measure change.

3.) A Sustainable Enabling Environment

To forge a sense of possibility, you must create the right enabling environment in a community—the underlying conditions that allow change to occur and for the community to change how it works together. We show you how to be intentional in designing strategies and approaches that simultaneously create these conditions while you take action on specific issues. Without the right enabling environment, well-intentioned efforts will not work.


Learn how to Turn Outward. 

We have trained over thousands of Public Innovators in the practice of Turning Outward.  If you feel stuck in trying to move your community forward and are looking for an alternative path then click here to learn how you can become trained to Turn Outward.


Continue to How Change Happens →