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Catalyze 2020: Randall H. Russell

Megan Holmes



We asked some of St. Pete’s best and brightest citizens to share one catalyzing idea for making St. Pete a better place to live. We asked not for lists of problems, but for meaty, actionable and impactful solutions, no matter how big or how small. 

Randall H. Russell – President and CEO, Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg

Stay Curious in 2020

There’s much discussion these days about how easy it is for all of us to stay in our bubbles of pre-existing ideas, values and beliefs. We tend to live in communities of like-mindedness and sociological sameness, limiting our ability to experience and leverage new ideas and perspectives.

Without delving into the current state of our political divisions, it’s worth reminding ourselves that humans naturally gravitate toward the familiar and comfortable. Engaging with those who are different from ourselves has always required intentionality and effort. Making it even more challenging is the reality that our cities, neighborhoods and institutions have long been segregated along racial lines, and often structured to effectively marginalize the economically disadvantaged. 

I believe this is a moment to champion curiosity – another natural human attribute – over despair. There are some simple and actionable ways to resist the gravitational pull of homogeneous circles of influence. And the payoff is huge when we open our circles a bit wider and challenge ourselves to explore other points of view and lived experiences.

Decades of research tell us that if you want to activate a creative breakthrough, you should create environments where unexpected combinations of people can have serendipitous encounters and experience the symphony of multiple perspectives. Major universities, tech companies and think tanks are experts at leveraging this time-tested approach. We can all begin the process of mixing things up at the scale of our own offices, boardrooms lunch tables and social circles. 

Look around the decision-making tables where you sit. Are they representative of our full community, both racially and economically? Can you make a conscious effort to diversify your network of thought leaders and influencers in 2020? Would you be willing to schedule a lunch with someone you know will challenge your thinking? Are you ready to make the resolution to do this moving forward? Curiosity requires some action.

If the prospect of reaching out feels daunting or you aren’t sure where to begin, we’re here to help. The Center for Health Equity in South St. Petersburg, opened by the Foundation in fall of 2019, was built on the premise that a neutral meeting space for civically engaged citizens from across sectors, races, and neighborhoods will spark magic. Taking an intentional approach to building bridges across traditional divides will help our community solve problems.

We invite you to join this experiment and stay curious about differences in 2020. As you consider the topics and information you are most curious about, contact us here at the Center if you are interested and we will aid your efforts by connecting you with others in our community with similar interests you may not have met otherwise.  

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