News & Media

Kelly Ryan: It’s about more than a building

Thu. Jun 16, 2016

The Tribune building may appear quiet at the site these days, however, appearances can be deceiving as activity levels remain high and moving forward on all fronts. Incourage is committed to making good decisions about moving to the next phase of capital construction in a fiscally responsible manner. In the context of these discussions and decisions, funding is important but only one factor in forward movement – and, frankly, one of the easier factors to address. The building will get funded. It’s one thing to renovate a building. It’s another to create the conditions in the community for success and sustainability. As we’ve said repeatedly, this is about so much more than a building. 

000 Rick's Table

Realizing our vision – ‘a community that works well for all people’ – requires a holistic and long-term perspective on change that encompasses more than the Tribune building. Rest assured – we’d like to see workers on site and renovation accelerating, and it will happen. However, fostering community change is not quick or easy work. It requires long-term perspective, commitment to values, perseverance and patience.

In addition to securing financial support for the Tribune and broader community, we are focused in areas of work that are interdependent and when approached simultaneously create conditions for long-term success – not only for the Tribune, but for all development projects and investments. These include:

Tribune sits at the fulcrum of downtown development – or more broadly, how we approach business and decision-making as a community.

In our role as a ‘community developer’ we’re learning a lot about the need for changing the way we do economic development and conduct business as a community, state and nation. Some of the changes are technical – a change in policy or procedure in terms of how financial capital flows to good projects and to different parts of the country. Some needed changes are much more challenging – especially those that are cultural and embedded in old practice, privilege and power.

This is particularly evident in local downtown development – the very environment within which this $14 million investment will be made. Optimal development conditions are not those in which you feel compelled to be at every public meeting in case your project is compromised in some way because of opaqueness or individual agendas. This is not conducive to engendering trust, collaboration and alignment toward a shared vision. The analogy of a chess game comes to mind.

We will not realize positive community change with legacy practices and thinking. Concentrated power and control in the hands of few was a widespread practice of the past century – not just here, but in many places across the country whose economies were anchored in single industries and embedded structures of hierarchy.

Authentic inclusion of all stakeholders in decision-making, strategy and determining desired outcomes – not just lip service in terms of conducting a nominal survey or a one-time focus group – is one of the most important cultural changes needed in our downtown processes, our broader region and across the nation.

At its core, Tribune is about people. Putting people back at the center of community.


And on this measure, Tribune has achieved significant success without the next shovel turned or new window installed. In a mid-term evaluation report informed by over 225 engaged residents, it is consistently described as ‘hope’ for the future. “A shining example of inclusion” – where some say they felt truly welcome for the first time. It is described as an accelerator of new ideas, relationships and networks. Residents indicate greater desire to support entrepreneurial activities, local business and increased environmental awareness as a result of their participation in the Tribune process. These are baby steps, but important milestones on the path toward economic growth.

We – every one of us that calls this place home – can strive to preserve that which is good about our past practice and shape a new future – one that is anchored in trust, transparency, user-centered process and shared power. Stewardship of this place and each other is a defining characteristic of a community that works well for all people.


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  • About Incourage

    Established in rural Wisconsin in 1994 to serve the changing needs of the south Wood County area, Incourage has become a nationally-recognized leader in place-based philanthropy and community development. Guided by values of equity, opportunity, and shared stewardship, Incourage envisions a community that works well for all people. One physical manifestation of this vision is the redevelopment of the Tribune building, which demonstrates Incourage’s user-centered approach to growing a strong and inclusive local economy.