United Way Book Club launches with ‘Hope’

Monday, February 25, 2013
by Nancy Vaughan

The United Way of Madison County Community Book Club, in partnership with the Community Services Council, officially launches in March with the book “The Work of Hope: How Individuals and Organizations Can Authentically Do Good” by Rich Harwood.

This is a little book with big ideas — not unlike our United Way itself. Rich Harwood leads an organization called The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, a key partner with United Way Worldwide on building a new business framework for our system.

But the book isn’t about United Way or Harwood Institute. It’s about you and me and the guy up the street who are all just trying to figure out how to build a good life for our families.

What Rich and his organization do is engage everyday people in conversations about what matters to them, and then teach other organizations to do the same. He then helps us understand how that knowledge can be used to create real and lasting change within communities.

This book is a follow-up to a study conducted in 1991 and published as “Citizens and Politics: A View from Main Street.” It compares attitudes and concerns today with then and declares: The conversation has radically changed.

“If in 1991 people’s main focus was about the political system and its ills, then 2012 is about something more distinctly human. People feel bereft of a sense of possibility, unable to come together and get things done, and exhausted by the acrimony that holds our public discourse hostage.”

Rich sees hope in willingness across the country to change that condition. He lays out his analysis in fewer than 100 pages, and the entire book can be downloaded, or checked out from Anderson Public Library. To download, get more information, or register for updates, log on to www.unitedwaymadisonco.org/bookclub.

Reading the book is, of course, just the prerequisite. The real challenge is to engage in discussion. We’ll be doing that at the Community Services Council monthly meeting April 10 at noon at The Salvation Army, 16th and Meridian streets, Anderson. We also welcome the opportunity to schedule additional discussion groups — just give us a call at 643-7493.

Even better, Rich, himself, will visit our community April 24 and hold two public meetings — one in Anderson and one in Elwood — as part of his Main Street Tour. I can say from my own experience working with Rich and his crew that attendees will become believers in possibility.

One of the most important things I have learned from Harwood’s work is that it really isn’t complicated, but it does take a focused effort. Please consider this your invitation and turn outward to join others in Madison County to build community together.

The book club will read three books per year. Each book will address challenges and opportunities for making a positive impact in Madison County. The other selections for 2013 are (summer) “Caught in the Middle: America’s Heartland in the Age of Globalism” by Richard Longworth and (fall) “Nickled and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America” by Barbara Ehrenreich.

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