Getting Started With Building Relationships

“Who else should we involve in community-level change?”

Relationships drive the work of community change forward. You are working to build relationships with a central team right now, but what about building relationships outside of your team? You need funding, resources, volunteers, and other assistance as you move through executing projects.  

The work of building relationships needs to happen before asking for something from organizations or individuals–your goal is to cultivate long-term and authentic partnerships while identifying what is important to community decision-makers, potential funders, and volunteers.  

In order to build strong relationships with others, you need to understand how you work with others. Continuing to learn more about yourself is important as these relationships develop. 


Activities: Choose 2-3 activities to complete to identify common interests and build relationships with your team. You’ll be tempted to jump straight into the work, but understanding what matters to others on your team and how they work best is important to your long-term success. Take your time with the activities; they aren’t intended to be completed in one sitting. 


  • Power Trading CardsTaking information that you garnered from your one-on-one conversations, complete this activity to have a quick reference within your community of what stakeholders consider to be important assets.  


  • Enneagram Personality Test – The Enneagram is a personality typing test that focuses on how you interact with others and what you find important. Take this quiz individually and then discuss your findings and results with your team. Identify who among the team is best at reaching out to new people and who is best at maintaining relationships.

  • My Community WishlistUsing the Community Wishlist from Lesson 1.3: Getting Started With Others, add a fourth column that identifies who exactly in the community cares about each of the items on the wishlist to better show the importance of these items.


Here’s your chance to take some time to think and reflect on your dreams and interests. Keep a community building journal, scribble notes on some post-its, or simply think about these questions before moving on to the next lesson!

  • Reflecting on your Enneagram type (1-9), identify your strengths and weaknesses with relationship-building tasks (For example, Enneagram 2s tend to be people pleasers).

  • What are specific tasks in your community that volunteers could assist with completing?

  • What were you surprised about when conducting the one-on-one conversations exercise?

Community Development in Action

MacKenzie Walker is a community leader in Matewan, WV who utilizes the power of relationship development to harness resources and funding for the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum. Through building powerful partnerships, the City of Matewan has completed a series of small wins and met goals through a community development process, leading to larger projects currently underway. Learn more about what’s happening in Matewan in this video.

Watch this HubCAP video highlighting Matewan and their amazing work!

Ready to keep going?

Wanted: Citizen Lobbyists

Citizen lobbyists with AARP are a common sight at the Capitol during the Legislative Session. Dressed in their unmistakable red blazers, the volunteers watch over countless committee meeting and floor sessions. Photo by Will Price, WV Legislative Photography.


So, there’s an issue that’s getting you fired up and you’re ready to do something about it. What now?

While the idea of becoming a lobbyist might be a little off-putting to some, don’t be alarmed. Citizen lobbyists play one of the most important roles in the legislative process.

The popular understanding of the term “lobbyists” describes those who lobby as less than scrupulous characters. However, the true origin story of the term “lobbyist” is somewhat cloudy.

In reality, a lobbyist is simply someone who meets with an elected representative to educate or persuade them as to why they ought to take a particular action on an issue. This means that regular, everyday people can and should be lobbyists as well, especially if there is an issue that they care strongly about.

Here in West Virginia, we have a part time Legislature made up of 134 legislators representing the state’s 1.8 million citizens. While we provide regularly-scheduled input to these representatives through elections, it is the diligent work of citizen lobbyists that ensures that all West Virginians’ voices are heard year-round.

What does a citizen lobbyist do?

During the Legislative Session, citizen lobbyists:

  • Visit the Capitol to meet with their representatives on their own time or during issue-centered lobby days. (You can find a list of scheduled lobby days on the General Services website.)
  • Call, write, tweet, or Facebook representatives. All legislators have their district and basic contact information listed on the Legislature’s website, but an increasing number have active Facebook and Twitter presences where constituents can engage.
  • Track bills they care about and contact members of the committees they’re referred to. It’s relatively easy for a bill to be introduced. Getting a bill passed is a much larger feat. Representatives need to hear your priorities throughout the process, particularly early on when bills can get trapped in committee.


Outside of Session, citizen lobbyists:

  • Do their research. One of the important roles all lobbyists play is bringing information to legislators. Whether that’s a research report or a pile of letters detailing constituent experiences, the data points legislators receive will influence what they care about and how they vote.
  • Meet with their representatives closer to home. Legislators are often willing to take individual or group meetings with constituents outside of Session to listen to their concerns. These opportunities are particularly useful for citizen lobbyists who know they cannot make it to Charleston during Session.
  • Keep calling, writing, tweeting, and Facebooking. Session is often such a race to the finish that it’s hard for new ideas to make it onto the floor. The months in between Sessions are a great time to plant new ideas in a representative’s head and make sure that they are as much of an expert on your issue as you are.


Being a citizen lobbyist is hard but necessary work, and even though you probably won’t get paid, you can be sure that the work citizen lobbyists do creates a better West Virginia for current and future generations.

Stay tuned in the following weeks as we bring you tips on how to make lobby visits most effective, how to decide what to say when calling your representative, and more ways you can make sure your voice and voices of other West Virginians are heard at the Capitol.

Want support scheduling a meeting or finding where to start? Get in touch with our Policy Coordinator, Taylor Bennett.

Interested in more articles like this one? Subscribe to The Hub’s Legislative Hubbub email, sent every Thursday during Session. Sign up now »

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