Harwood Institute hopes to deliver energy into Owensboro with report

June 7, 2024 | 12:15 am

Updated June 7, 2024 | 12:38 am

Photo by Josh Kelly

The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation recently released a 72-page report on Owensboro-Daviess County. Institute president and founder Rich Harwood said the report does not intend to divide or cast blame within the community, saying he hopes it offers insight and energy to empower Owensboro to move the city forward.

During a few roundtable conversations at Rooster Booster on Thursday morning and a presentation later in the evening, Harwood emphasized that the grandest need for Owensboro can be found in engagement.

“It’s the most important one, at least in my work and in working with communities. This community needs to build and grow more civic capacities in order to do the work,” he said. “The biggest predictor of whether or not communities move forward is not the programs they have, the initiatives they have, [or] the strategies they have … they’re necessary, but they’re not sufficient. The biggest predictor of whether or not a community is healthy, moves forward, and continues on is the civic culture.”

In the report included below, Harwood notes that Owensboro is a family-oriented, faith-based, and deeply interpersonal community with great pride in the city. While those findings are throughout Owensboro, the report found people have difficulty addressing serious issues, engaging people, and tackling shared challenges.

One large cause he points to is the fragmentation people have expressed in civil discourse, neighborhood involvement, demographics, and other factors. Harwood said this often causes people not to work together.

“Organizations are remaining in their silos even when they’re around the table together. Organizations are acting to protect their turf and their funding. It prevents us from working together to address the very pressing challenges that people want to address. There’s no way to get to where we want to go if we’re fragmented and siloed and territorial,” Harwood said.

Harwood said that this is only the second part of the Institute’s work. They will begin holding a “Public Innovators Lab” in August to train Owensboro residents on how to approach the dissected information. However, he said there is no political or other agenda behind the effort.

He noted that the lab’s goal is to find areas of passion and utilize the momentum already built in those areas to form the group’s next action steps.

“We found that we need a small group to start with to get that moving, and others can join as we keep moving,” Harwood said.

Harwood said information about that program will begin in the coming weeks and will be available to the first 50 participants to register. For more information on the lab, contact Stacy Edds-Ellis, Director of the Greater Owensboro Leadership Institute.

The full report can be viewed below:

June 7, 2024 | 12:15 am

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