An interview with Bryan Phillips, the newest addition to The Hub team

Bryan Phillips, Policy Engagement Coordinator

We at The Hub are thrilled to announce the newest addition to our policy team, Bryan Phillips. Bryan will serve as the Policy Engagement Coordinator to help guide The Hub’s work in communities by focusing on policies on the federal level that would benefit the work happening in Hub communities across the state. Bryan comes with extensive knowledge have worked with the West Virginia legislature prior to joining The Hub.

Bryan is working alongside Stephanie Tyree, our Executive Director. Bryan and Stephanie connected for a conversation to share about Bryan’s background, his passion for policy work, why he believes so strongly in the power of community coaching programs, and what they can do to build up West Virginia.

Stephanie Tyree: How did you learn about The Hub and become interested in the work the organization is doing?

Bryan Phillips: I’ve actually been on The Hub’s mailing list for several years as an attempt to try to keep up with all the great work that groups are doing in West Virginia. I was always interested in The Hub’s work from a 5,000-foot view, but I really gained an appreciation for the organization’s ability to work with communities and not for communities while I was putting together lists of economic and community development groups in the state for roundtable discussions for a project I was working on with a past organization. One deep dive later, I jumped at the opportunity to send in my application. Let’s just say that I’ve been watching their job board for a while now. 

ST: What does it mean to you to see the work happening around the state to revitalize communities through The Hub’s community leadership coaching?

BP: To me, our community leadership coaching programs are the heart and soul of the work done at The Hub. As West Virginians, it is no secret that we don’t like it when outsiders come in and tell us what to do. And who can blame us? That’s why I have such an enthusiasm to see all the great work that our Community Coaches are doing. They realize that the people who know and love these communities are the thing most crucial to their revitalization, and they work hand-in-hand with these people to help them produce their shared vision of their future. By helping these communities to grow their own ability to produce change, they help create a better West Virginia.  

ST: When did you first become interested in policy work? What sparked that interest for you?

BP: I first became interested in policy at a very young age, but I really didn’t really realize that it was a viable career path at the time. I was always very involved with student governments and making improvements to the systems in front of me, but I was never exposed to people who were doing the work day-in and day-out. I started college as a biology major thinking that I would go to medical school and do the stuff that I was really interested in during my free time. Once I realized that it was something that I could do full time, there was no going back. I think what really sparked my interest in working in policy was the fact that everyday people can make a difference in their communities and are able to elevate problems they see in their lives to people in positions of power. As I was more exposed to this world, I noticed so many different people working toward goals that fit into a larger conversation. Anyone who wants to improve their communities is able to contribute their part to create a greater whole, and that is something that inspires me to do this work. 

ST: What motivates you in the work that you are doing? Why does policy work matter to you?

BP: What motivates me to do the work is an ongoing desire to contribute in whatever small way I can to the betterment of the lives of the people around me. I’ve always had a knack for the more mundane parts of policy work like data analysis and legal research, but being able to convey that information to those who are impacted by it and to those who have the ability to enact change, to me, is the most rewarding part. A lot of the time, identifying problems in the systems around us is extremely difficult, and oftentimes it is even harder to demonstrate that on paper. Policy work matters to me because for many people starting the process of eliminating problems we see in our communities is burdensome and we may not know where to start. Working in policy lets me pull back the curtain to show others how the system around them works and how it can be changed.

ST: How have you seen policy work touch the lives of communities around you?

BP: What a lot of people don’t realize is that policy work has the ability to touch the lives of everyone in a community. Your city’s new ordinance to create more sidewalks may be part of an organization’s national strategy to increase the walkability of communities to improve business and development. Your state’s transportation agency may be adding more crosswalks downtown because a group of community leaders demonstrated that traffic patterns were detrimental to public safety during dinner rushes. I am lucky to be a professional who works in policy, but policy work is often done best when the people who care deeply about an issue in their communities realize they are always part of a larger conversation. 

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For too long, who and what it means to be a West Virginian has been defined for us. It’s time to redefine the Mountain State in our own words and in the eyes of the world. West Virginia can be anything we want it to be – let’s redefine it together.

Parsons

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future.

Message from our Executive Leadership Team

Fifteen years ago, stakeholders building up local communities and economies in West Virginia convened to map a coordinated strategy to systemically grow community economic development activity in the state. From the shared vision and collaborative leadership of dozens of strategic partners across the state, the WV Community Development Hub was born.

Since that time, The Hub has grown into the anchor community development organization serving West Virginia. We have built upon the original vision to create a method for rural, community-led development strategies that is uniquely tailored to the needs and opportunities of our state.

As we have grown and developed a proven model for success, our partnerships with community and economic development practitioners, funders, and committed West Virginia residents have been foundational to every element of our work.

Over the past two years, the team at The Hub has adapted to the unprecedented challenges our communities have faced during the pandemic by leaning into our core strengths to deepen our impact. The Hub remains committed to tackling persistent challenges, and we have focused our attention on the most impactful elements of our work.

We are supporting community leaders to advance their visions for local development, creating new pathways for engagement and leadership growth through our virtual training platform, and leading strategies that lift up voices of community leaders to move forward solutions to long-held challenges to growth.

If the past two years have taught us anything, it is that nothing about the future is set in stone. While the coming year may present enormous opportunities for advancement in our state, they will also inevitably require significant capacity building, shared strategies that are grounded in trust-based partnerships, and extended efforts to support the leadership development of individuals and organizations who have been asked to do more during a time of extreme stress and strain.

The services that anchor organizations like The Hub provide are even more critical in this time, and we expect our work to scale significantly in the coming years ahead.

We look forward to continuing to do the work of putting into action the vision and the shared strategies envisioned by that core group of community economic development practitioners and funders fifteen years ago.

In Continued Accompaniment,

– WV Community Development Hub
Executive Leadership Team

Stephanie Tyree

Executive Director

Amanda Workman Scott

Director of Community Engagement

Emma Pepper

Director of Strategic Network Communications

Katie Loudin

Director of Strategic Development

Montgomery

Residents participated in the Cultivate WV program to kickstart community and economy building. Read their community case study.

Smithers

Residents participated in the Cultivate WV program to kickstart community and economy building. Read their community case study.

Kingwood

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future.

Lewis County

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future.

Meadow River Valley Region

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future. Read their community case study.

Monticello Neighborhood of Clarksburg

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future. Watch their community documentary.

New Martinsville

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future. Read their community case study.

Systemic Change

2021 became a time period of catalytic potential as we saw years of investment into our core strategies to enact systemic change yield new results. Our strategic focus areas include policy, communications, and supporting the community economic development system in leveraging unique financing opportunities such as the Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER Initiative and Opportunity Zones.

In addition, through our strategic policy support role within the Abandoned Properties Coalition, The Hub successfully advanced two key objectives: the creation of a statewide land bank at the West Virginia Land Stewardship Corporation and extension of the state’s Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit. 

Through the Opportunity Appalachia program, 6 catalytic community projects located in WV-based Opportunity Zones received $250,000 for pre-development technical assistance. Three projects received additional private funding as a result of program participation.

Community Coaching

In 2021, we accompanied 16 communities through our in-depth, professional coaching programs. In addition to leaning into coaching and financing opportunities offered through these programs, participating communities leveraged an additional $2.8 million in funding on their own for community economic development projects. While participating in our entry-level coaching program, Cultivate WV, Montgomery and Smithers realized momentum-building success through access to $40,000 in seed funding for projects like farmers markets, public art, wayfinding, community events, and development of a trail system.

Six communities, Lewis County, Kingwood, Meadow River Valley, Monticello neighborhood in Clarksburg, New Martinsville and Parsons, graduated the intermediate planning program Blueprint Communities* with strategic plans in place. We also launched a new round of HubCAP, our flagship community economic development program, in six towns located in the Monongahela National Forest region: Cowen, Franklin, White Sulphur Springs, Elkins, Marlinton, and Petersburg.

Elkins

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies. 

A core team led by Woodlands Development Group also participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support a community development project located in an Opportunity Zone.

Franklin

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

Marlinton

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

Petersburg

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

White Sulphur Springs

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

Charleston

A core team led by Crawford Holdings, LLC participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support a community development project located in an Opportunity Zone.

Huntington

Core teams led by Thundercloud, Inc. and the City of Huntington participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support community development projects located in Opportunity Zones.

Grafton

A core team led by Unleash Tygart, Inc participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support a community development project located in an Opportunity Zone.

Leadership Development

As hundreds of people began to engage in our virtual training activities in 2020, we saw a critical opportunity to scale and deepen our impact. This year, The Hub team developed an accessible, virtual platform with options for self-guided and group learning activities as well as professional coaching.

Kickstart Communities is now the crux of our efforts to bring new people into the work and grow their leadership. These activities now form the foundational stages of a Community Leadership Development Pipeline to move motivated residents from seeing the challenges in their communities to proactively collaborating to resolve them.

Cowen

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies. Read their community case study.