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?

Where are they now? Two former VISTAs share their experiences


The Hub’s former VISTAs held crucial roles in creating momentum towards positive change in WV. We’re thankful for the time they’ve dedicated to our community development work, and it’s no surprise that they’re moving ahead to bright futures. We caught up with a couple of our former VISTAs–Sathiyan Sivakumaran and Zach Rissman–on how their work at The Hub has impacted future goals and achievements.

Sathiyan Sivakumaran

Former VISTAs Breanna Collins and Sathiyan Sivakumaran

Sathiyan Sivakumaran served in The Hub’s AmeriCorps VISTA program in 2018 with our HubCAP III program. During his year with The Hub, Sathiyan had a front-row seat to exciting progress made in the communities in the HubCAP program. He fondly remembers seeing the HubCAP teams take ownership of their community meetings to drive the work they identified was an impactful thing to witness and support. We recently had a chance to catch up with Sathiyan, and reflecting on his year, he said, “the connection of Matewan’s HubCAP community team to Coalfield Development was an awesome thing that happened.” Through those seeds being sown during the program, the Nenni Buildings in Matewan have been purchased and grant funding has been secured to further redevelop and revitalize the community. Without HubCAP, these connections would not have happened. 

Reflecting on his year of service with The Hub, here’s what Sathiyan had to say: 

“I learned a lot from everyone, whether it was from their experiences and stories or from their expertise. It’s hard to keep track of all I learned. Running effective meetings and ensuring there is value produced from meetings was something that’s proven extremely important in my work now. Nobody likes to waste their time, so when people are volunteering their time and effort, I feel like it’s even more necessary to make every minute worth it.

In a less tangible way, I gained a better understanding of the unique nature of every individual and how to navigate different personalities and mindsets to achieve progress. I also grew an appreciation–or at least, understanding–for the challenges and time that our efforts can take before clear value is shown.”

Since concluding his term with The Hub, Sathiyan has gone on to work for the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, where he oversees the agency’s Semester Internship, AmeriCorps, and AmeriCorps VISTA programs. He also supports the Abandoned Mine Land and Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization (AMLER) programs in his role. 

Zach Rissman at The Hub’s Charleston office

Zach Rissman

A great part of hosting an AmeriCorpsVISTA project at The Hub is getting to see our members continued growth. 

You may remember Zach Rissman, our AmeriCorps VISTA member who served at The Hub in 2019-2020. Zach was an instrumental piece of laying the foundation for the Community Collaborative Network. We recently caught up with Zach to see what lessons he learned during his year of service, and what he is up to now. 

Here’s what he had to say: 

“My year of service taught me some incredible things, both about myself and the world. First, it really helped show me what I was capable of and pushed me beyond my own limits. Serving with The Hub made me grow immensely as a person and, especially as my first foray into adulthood after college, was an extremely valuable way to spring into the world. The Hub allowed a level of autonomy that forced me to think for myself and helped me become more self-assured and self-reliant. 

Serving with The Hub also taught me a lot about the world. Through the work that was being done by The Hub and Hub partners and through meeting all of the people that I did, I became extremely humbled by the level of innovation, creativity, and humanity that existed in this sphere in West Virginia. I learned about the strength and beauty that exist all over West Virginia communities and will never forget the impact that had on me.” 

Zach shared that his next chapter will begin in May, when he enters a program to learn how to be a sustainable, small-scale farmer.

Erin Susman is The Hub’s Operations and VISTA Program Manager. You can reach her at

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