10 Ways to Bring Value to Others in Your Community (and Make Friends and Influence People…)

Photo by Catherine Moore/What’s Next WV

In my last post I related a number of proven characteristics that define Dying Communities v Successful Communities.

The differences between communities that prosper and those that flounder are often tied very closely to the expansiveness, inclusiveness and diversity of “The Network” – the social fabric – within that community.

Which of course leads one to ask: “So how do we build a stronger, larger, more vibrant network?”

I suggest we do so by intentionally practicing community-minded behavior and incorporating this behavior into our networking.

Networks are chaotic and constantly changing. People and organizations plug in and out as they see value. Network connections flow to value. If you are one of the nodes in your local network, the more value you bring to others, they more they will want to connect with you.

Here are 10 ways you can begin the work of building your community by bringing value to others in the community development network. (Thanks to the Pomegranate Center for this list…)

1. Take interest in other people’s passions as much as you want them to be interested in yours. 

We all have ideas for how life should be. The thing is that, unless we are unsurpassed geniuses, we only see a small part of the picture. Asking others what they see can only enhance understanding.

2. Become a mentor to others less involved in their community. 

In every community there is a small, overworked group of leaders who try to figure out everything for everyone. This will not do. If you are such a leader, mentor someone with less experience. If you are not, approach someone and ask them to mentor you.

3. Support a cause with no direct personal benefit. 

We are involved with the things we care about the most. That’s natural. My experience tells me, however, that the most interesting and possibly most important discoveries happen in the spaces between interests and disciplines and ideologies. Step outside your natural zone and your comfort zone… it’s necessary for uncovering new solutions.

4. Invite “them” to your meeting.

It is convenient to show our importance by pitting “us” against “them.” But “they” may have insights that will help us better understand the problem and appreciate the marvelous tensions that form a healthy community.

5. Reject the tendency to blame. 

Everyone plays a role in the problem and everyone must participate in the solution. Practice compassion towards those, who, like ourselves, unwittingly contribute to the problem they wish to solve.

Everyone plays a role in the problem and everyone must participate in the solution.

6. Confront internal contradictions. 

Claiming the problem is someone else’s doing only conveniently absolves us from doing our part. If I drive my car and complain about traffic jams, it’s necessary that I acknowledge my contribution to that traffic.

7. Practice industrial-strength listening. 

Do not react until you’ve listened to, heard and digested the information and viewpoints of everyone around you. You’ll be much wiser for it, and appreciated by others as a considerate and knowledgeable participant.

8. Render unto community…

Shrink your home to what is necessary and conduct the rest of your life in the community. Invest in things that integrate you into your community.

9. Clarify your image of the future.

I find that most decisions we make are shaped by impulses so deeply ingrained we fail to be aware of them. Unexamined impulse is prejudice. Examined impulse, once confirmed, is guidance that leads to something better. Examine your embedded assumptions, embrace the relevant ones and discard the rest. What remains is a clear intuition, an image of a possible future. Then engage with others to make it a reality.

10. Resist the temptation to choose between the ideal and the reality.

Hold them both in your awareness. Learn to enjoy the creativity and humor this tension offers. It can be quite funny. It’s not an either/or decision – it’s an and/plus opportunity.

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For too long, who and what it means to be a West Virginian has been defined for us. It’s time to redefine the Mountain State in our own words and in the eyes of the world. West Virginia can be anything we want it to be – let’s redefine it together.

Parsons

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future.

Message from our Executive Leadership Team

Fifteen years ago, stakeholders building up local communities and economies in West Virginia convened to map a coordinated strategy to systemically grow community economic development activity in the state. From the shared vision and collaborative leadership of dozens of strategic partners across the state, the WV Community Development Hub was born.

Since that time, The Hub has grown into the anchor community development organization serving West Virginia. We have built upon the original vision to create a method for rural, community-led development strategies that is uniquely tailored to the needs and opportunities of our state.

As we have grown and developed a proven model for success, our partnerships with community and economic development practitioners, funders, and committed West Virginia residents have been foundational to every element of our work.

Over the past two years, the team at The Hub has adapted to the unprecedented challenges our communities have faced during the pandemic by leaning into our core strengths to deepen our impact. The Hub remains committed to tackling persistent challenges, and we have focused our attention on the most impactful elements of our work.

We are supporting community leaders to advance their visions for local development, creating new pathways for engagement and leadership growth through our virtual training platform, and leading strategies that lift up voices of community leaders to move forward solutions to long-held challenges to growth.

If the past two years have taught us anything, it is that nothing about the future is set in stone. While the coming year may present enormous opportunities for advancement in our state, they will also inevitably require significant capacity building, shared strategies that are grounded in trust-based partnerships, and extended efforts to support the leadership development of individuals and organizations who have been asked to do more during a time of extreme stress and strain.

The services that anchor organizations like The Hub provide are even more critical in this time, and we expect our work to scale significantly in the coming years ahead.

We look forward to continuing to do the work of putting into action the vision and the shared strategies envisioned by that core group of community economic development practitioners and funders fifteen years ago.

In Continued Accompaniment,

– WV Community Development Hub
Executive Leadership Team

Stephanie Tyree

Executive Director

Amanda Workman Scott

Director of Community Engagement

Emma Pepper

Director of Strategic Network Communications

Katie Loudin

Director of Strategic Development

Montgomery

Residents participated in the Cultivate WV program to kickstart community and economy building. Read their community case study.

Smithers

Residents participated in the Cultivate WV program to kickstart community and economy building. Read their community case study.

Kingwood

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future.

Lewis County

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future.

Meadow River Valley Region

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future. Read their community case study.

Monticello Neighborhood of Clarksburg

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future. Watch their community documentary.

New Martinsville

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future. Read their community case study.

Systemic Change

2021 became a time period of catalytic potential as we saw years of investment into our core strategies to enact systemic change yield new results. Our strategic focus areas include policy, communications, and supporting the community economic development system in leveraging unique financing opportunities such as the Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER Initiative and Opportunity Zones.

In addition, through our strategic policy support role within the Abandoned Properties Coalition, The Hub successfully advanced two key objectives: the creation of a statewide land bank at the West Virginia Land Stewardship Corporation and extension of the state’s Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit. 

Through the Opportunity Appalachia program, 6 catalytic community projects located in WV-based Opportunity Zones received $250,000 for pre-development technical assistance. Three projects received additional private funding as a result of program participation.

Community Coaching

In 2021, we accompanied 16 communities through our in-depth, professional coaching programs. In addition to leaning into coaching and financing opportunities offered through these programs, participating communities leveraged an additional $2.8 million in funding on their own for community economic development projects. While participating in our entry-level coaching program, Cultivate WV, Montgomery and Smithers realized momentum-building success through access to $40,000 in seed funding for projects like farmers markets, public art, wayfinding, community events, and development of a trail system.

Six communities, Lewis County, Kingwood, Meadow River Valley, Monticello neighborhood in Clarksburg, New Martinsville and Parsons, graduated the intermediate planning program Blueprint Communities* with strategic plans in place. We also launched a new round of HubCAP, our flagship community economic development program, in six towns located in the Monongahela National Forest region: Cowen, Franklin, White Sulphur Springs, Elkins, Marlinton, and Petersburg.

Elkins

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies. 

A core team led by Woodlands Development Group also participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support a community development project located in an Opportunity Zone.

Franklin

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

Marlinton

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

Petersburg

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

White Sulphur Springs

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

Charleston

A core team led by Crawford Holdings, LLC participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support a community development project located in an Opportunity Zone.

Huntington

Core teams led by Thundercloud, Inc. and the City of Huntington participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support community development projects located in Opportunity Zones.

Grafton

A core team led by Unleash Tygart, Inc participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support a community development project located in an Opportunity Zone.

Leadership Development

As hundreds of people began to engage in our virtual training activities in 2020, we saw a critical opportunity to scale and deepen our impact. This year, The Hub team developed an accessible, virtual platform with options for self-guided and group learning activities as well as professional coaching.

Kickstart Communities is now the crux of our efforts to bring new people into the work and grow their leadership. These activities now form the foundational stages of a Community Leadership Development Pipeline to move motivated residents from seeing the challenges in their communities to proactively collaborating to resolve them.

Cowen

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies. Read their community case study.