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?

What we’re talking about when we’re talking local policy change

Residents meet in Grafton to talk local policy


This year, the team with The Hub’s policy program has been in the process of rolling out the Next Generation Communities Project – an initiative that helps to strengthen communities and their economies through local changes that will motivate young people to come to and stay in West Virginia.

As this project ramps up, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to community teams across the state about making local policy change. Many people are eager to get involved, but aren’t quite sure what I mean when I say, “local policy change.” 

So, what are we actually talking about? 

In order to answer that question, there are two underlying questions that must be addressed:

What does “local policy” actually mean? 

What does “change” look like? 

I suspect that when most people think about the meaning of local policy, they think about a city council or county commission passing an ordinance – a new law. But, it can be many other things as well.  

A policy change could be moving some money around in a town’s budget to pay for something that wasn’t previously funded. Or, it could be a change in practice by a government agency or even a corporation that doesn’t require passing or amending a law at all. In short, sometimes a local policy change is a law change, but sometimes it’s just a change in practice. 

No matter what type of policy, when we talk about “change,” what we’re really talking about is a decision that needs to be made by someone who is in a position of local authority. This could be a mayor, city council, municipal staff member, or a CEO. Asking yourself or someone else, “Who calls the shots on this?” can be a good way to figure out who will be in charge of making the change.

An example of this might be a city council choosing to change how seating is arranged inside of their council chambers. 

Scott Lazenby recently published an article outlining the many ways that seating arrangements inside city council chambers can contribute to or undermine collaborative conversations between elected officials and community members.

Even though it’s unlikely that the seating arrangement of a council chamber is set out in law, changes made to seating arrangements would definitely fall under the category of local policy change for two reasons: 

  • A decision must be made by either the mayor or the city council – individuals who hold local authority; and
  • The decision impacts local community members and elected officials. 


This means that any community members who wish for the seating arrangement to be changed, would have to ask their elected officials to make that change on their behalf. This works especially well if a number of community members are asking for the same thing.

What are some local policy changes that you’d like to see in your community?

Leave us your thoughts in the comments, or reach out to me – Taylor Bennett – at if you would like to chat more.

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