Finding the Sweet Spot of Public Life

Sweet spot

Sweet spot

If you are trying to address community issues, undoubtedly you will want to do so in a way that gets beyond the symptoms and produces lasting change. To do this, you have to have more than effective programs. You have to intentionally address the issue in a way that actually helps create the conditions that support and sustain change efforts.  At The Harwood Institute, we call this intersection the Sweet Spot of Public Life.

Fortunately, there are ways to be intentional and deliberate about your community work so that it’s squarely in the Sweet Spot.

First, you have to be clear on the issue you’re tackling. If you’re part of a collaborative, it’s important that everyone is on the same page about this. What do you want to change and among what population of people?

Second, you have to understand the conditions that actually make communities work – norms, networks, relationships and structures that make the difference between a community that’s standing still and a community with a robust and vibrant civic life. We call these conditions public capital.

To use the Sweet Spot in your work, take an issue you’re working on, review the nine factors of public capital, then answer the following questions yourself or your team:

1. To what extent do we see each of these public capital factors in our community? Are they abundant, do they exist in pockets, or are they lacking?

2. Are we addressing the issue we’ve chosen in a way that grows the public capital we’re lacking? If not, what are some strategies we could pursue that actually would grow this public capital?

The Sweet Spot of Public Life matters. Developing strategies in the Sweet Spot give us the best chance of sustaining our work. Rich Harwood says more about this in a short video you can share with colleagues and friends.

The Sweet Spot is one of a number of core frameworks and concepts The Harwood Institute teaches to help people and organizations develop their capacity to be turned outward in their work. Let us know how you’re using it.