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?

A Citizen’s Guide to Making a Deal to Keep Policies Moving Forward


Much of the work that goes on under the dome is the work of compromise.

Legislators, citizen lobbyists (community members who are interested in influencing the policymaking process), and other interested parties will often make concessions on their original proposals in order to get legislation passed. Here are some tips and tricks that seasoned citizen lobbyists use once the wheeling and dealing begins. 

First, and most importantly, citizen lobbyists need to discuss their bill with legislators. Specifically, legislators who have a role in moving the bill forward such as committee chairs or majority leadership. Listening for the concerns (read our article on this) that they may have about a bill is the basis for finding a middle ground – one in which they agree to move a bill forward, and the bill still addresses the issue at hand.

It’s vital that citizen lobbyists participate in these types of discussions with legislators, but it’s easy to feel as if there are too many concerns to effectively address all of them. Seasoned citizen lobbyists do a few things to prepare for this:

  • Know your own bottom line. When you’re preparing to advocate on a piece of legislation, you have to know what changes you would agree to make to your bill and what changes are so significant that it would prevent the bill from effectively addressing your issue.
  • Know your issue. By becoming an expert on your own issue, you’ll be able to negotiate more effectively. Perhaps a legislator’s concern is based on a misunderstanding of the issue, or perhaps there is an aspect of the bill that is less important in the long run. As the citizen lobbyist, you are the expert on how this issue is impacting you or your community.
  • Be flexible. Often, deal-making isn’t as much about managing opposition, as it is about finding a more viable solution. As a citizen lobbyist, it can be difficult to suggest the perfect funding source for your great idea, or to know which government agency is the correct home for what you’re suggesting. Being open to suggestions from legislators allows for new and innovative suggestions that you may not have thought of before.
  • Don’t give up. Seasoned lobbyists know that it may take many conversations to come to a compromise with legislators, so they don’t give up. Maintaining a positive but persistent attitude can be extremely helpful in coming to a middle ground that everyone can live with. 


It can be challenging to be open to compromise for both legislators and citizen lobbyists, but it’s essential in order to keep things moving through the legislative process. Understanding that both legislators and citizen lobbyists put in a great deal of time and effort on the issues they care about can provide a common place to start. And approaching this part of the process as an opportunity to collaborate can move everyone closer to finding policy solutions for West Virginia’s big challenges.

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