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?

Advice from West Virginians on making positive change in your community


28 West Virginians met today as part of the Community Coaching Fellowship initiative. These leaders are growing their skills in supporting residents across the state in sparking community-led progress.

We heard from three people who have led this kind of work in their own communities: Lori McKinney of The Riff Raff Collective and Princeton Renaissance Project (from Princeton); Kenzie New-Walker of the WV Mine Wars Museum (from Matewan); and Stacy Raffo of the WV Community Development Hub and Richwood Rising (from Richwood).

About her experience getting more deeply involved in Matewan, Kenzie New-Walker shared, “I saw the momentum that was building up, and I wanted to help people chase that. I wanted to help people meet their goals.”

Here are 5 pieces of advice we heard today in response to the question: What are some of the challenges or struggles that you have faced along the road, and what do you know now that you wished you would have known before?

1. There is a tendency to want to spring into action when you have an idea.

Don’t work alone. Slow down and be mindful of the people you can collaborate with and learn from. This is even more important now that we can’t be face to face as often. Emphasize building 1-on-1 relationships. Identify the people who can support you with your ideas – both within your community as cheerleaders and fellow volunteers and outside of your community as technical experts, funders, and others.

2. You can’t do it all.

It can be easy to fall into a place of thinking that you need to hold all of the pieces of the work in order to make it successful. Share responsibility with others, and work to share your knowledge with others so that they are empowered to do the work on their own.

3. Your town may not be what it once was, but it can be a great town again.

Often, we can fall into a place of thinking that our towns will never be as great as they once were in a bygone era. While it is important to honor our history, we can’t move forward by keeping our eyes solely on the rearview mirror. 

4. Acknowledge different perspectives in the room, and cultivate a space of respect for all perspectives.

Each person’s experience has value. Have the courage to push back or add a new line of thinking if a perspective being shared does not match your own experience. It’s also the responsibility of people who don’t share that perspective to respect and honor experiences that are different from their own. Let’s build a better future, together. 

5. It is easy to let negative feedback affect you personally, especially when those interactions happen online.

Even if you make positive changes, you may get negative feedback. Remember to keep your focus on the solutions and positive perspectives, and that can be your forcefield. Build in ways to support one another as you hear negative feedback, and build in ways to process critical feedback that may be helpful in shaping or changing what your work may look like in the future.

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

More to explore

How to Host First Friday Events in Your Community

Are you working to bring energy into your community? Do you want to see more people in your downtown spaces? Are there a number of local craftspeople, artists, farmers, and other entrepreneurs in your region that you’d like to bring together?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *