Break the Cycle of Inwardness

The Organization-First Approach, a new report from The Harwood Institute, describes how organization's programs crowd out community.

Across the country those who work to make a difference in public life face a conundrum: just when these leaders and organizations need to turn outward toward their community, they instead turn inward toward their organization and programs. How often have you seen this: We say we want to engage the community but we actually talk to them about our programs and about our agenda, leaving no room for their concerns, their aspirations, or their insights. The Organization-First Approach documents this pull inward, and the danger of allowing programs and professionalization to crowd out the community. If we want to create hope and change in our communities we need to reject the cycle of inwardness and turn outward. As Kettering President David Mathews said of the report: "The Organization-First Approach report reveals the troubling trend of nonprofits, foundations, advocacy groups, and others becoming increasingly focused inward, consumed by an ethos of professionalization that leaves little room for authentic engagement or deliberation. The report finds that many of these groups have replaced engagement with outreach and interface with the public around the organization's programs and agenda instead of the community's needs or aspirations."