News & Media

Kelly Ryan Blog: Joining hands, not holding them.

Tue. Mar 26, 2013

We learned something very important about ourselves recently.

Last fall, we sent out 7,000 postcards to the community, asking them to join us for a discussion about how to improve the local economy. We put ads in The Daily Tribune, the VOICE of Wisconsin Rapids and on local public access TV channels. Essentially, we issued a mass call for the community to join our conversation. But the day of the event, only sixteen people showed up.

This confirmed what we’ve been observing and feeling for a while. How we approach communication in the community needs to change and become more intentional.

At Incourage we strongly believe in the principle of community engagement. It’s what we do, after all. But the response to our conversation about the economy showed us that instead of ringing the bell and expecting people to gather, we must bring people together in other ways.

To do this, we must build upon our strengths, and nothing makes us stronger than establishing relationships and making connections within our community. Over the last several weeks, we’ve been engaging in one-on-one conversations with south Wood County residents. One of the reasons we’re doing this is so that we can act as a bridge between people of like interests. For instance, we can connect “Mike” who wants to start a kayak rental business on the river, with “Jane” who is interested in the health of our waterways. In this way, Incourage can join hands in the community, not hold them.

Our next step is to develop an inventory of the good work already underway in our area, and make it available to residents. The update will be a regular release, and act as a snapshot of the moment.

By understanding our community’s assets, gathering information about what’s happening here, and joining residents with like interests, Incourage is working to fulfill its commitment to the long-term growth and vitality of our community. We want to help turn everyday people into everyone’s leaders.

To see great examples of how other communities are growing through relationships and networks, check out abundantcommunity.com.

I appreciate your comments, thoughts and support.


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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.