Thoughts from an AARP volunteer on Harwood's Lab

This Fall AARP volunteers and staff from 30 communities participated in the Harwood Institute's Public Innovators Lab, which was held at AARP’s Midwest Regional Office in Chicago. Bob Prath a volunteer from California shared his thoughts on the Lab. We would like to share his letter with you: I arrived at the Harwood training after witnessing a somewhat dismal political debate. Each gubernatorial candidate had touted an ability to lure prosperity from nearby states through business tax breaks funded with cuts to education and other human services.   It sounded like the prevailing concept was winning the zero-sum race to the bottom. A good deal for the race organizers but the runners were screwed. It depressed me.

On the way to the training a very intelligent friend, and international business consultant, tried to assure me that profits and tax breaks would always trump good social policy. It was an international reality code named the "new global economy."

Harwood training rehabilitated my belief that we can reconcile views, team up and reverse many prevailing attitudes of public life. Harwood showed me  pragmatic approaches to positive public engagement. I have already encountered reflective sparks in community planning and action groups as I put a few of the concepts on the table, asking how we might use them to turn outward.

What about the race to the bottom? I have renewed hope we can engage it, slow it, raise the bottom and even ensure that communities crossing the finish line are not really finished. Bob Prath, AARP Volunteer