News & Media

Kelly Ryan Blog: Trust, transparency and shared responsibility create strong communities.

Fri. Feb 20, 2015

Trust is essential in building community. Trust enables change, provides comfort during times of uncertainty and is the essential glue in constructive relationships. We have been very intentional about building trust for the past decade. Since 2005, hundreds of residents (and institutions) of all ages have benefited from “adaptive skills” training provided by Incourage. Said simply, adaptive skills equip people to work together in new and different ways. Projects, partnerships and volunteer efforts over the last decade have achieved greater impact by having residents involved who understand the critical need to build trust, clarify assumptions and establish shared goals and norms of behavior.

Building trust has proven and will continue to be a sound investment in sustainable, positive change.

Transparency, access to relevant information, and clarity around intentions are key to successful community building. Incourage stepped squarely into downtown development in Wisconsin Rapids with the purchase of the Daily Tribune Building. We have been – and continue to be – committed to modeling transparency, assuring access to relevant information and being very clear about our intentions. This commitment started before we purchased the property, when we reached out to the city to ask for partnership if we were to make this acquisition. We continued to demonstrate transparency the day we purchased the property. We knocked on our new neighbors doors, made introductions, handed out information related to purchase of the building and invited participation. We encountered many appreciative new neighbors and began our presence in downtown by being transparent in our actions and intentions.

Transparency has been key in every Tribune meeting hosted by Incourage, beginning with the first gathering of residents in September 2013. We established the practice of beginning every meeting with an update and providing responses to questions or issues that we heard surface between meetings. Our efforts to acquire a small, adjacent parking lot were a good example of this practice. We reported timely, transparent information about our unsuccessful efforts to acquire the parcel and continued efforts to partner with and understand the intentions of the new owner(s).

Shared Responsibility must be cultivated for communities to thrive. We must educate each other and future generations of this essential concept: by virtue of being connected in place, we have a shared destiny and a responsibility to be good stewards.

A responsibility to steward all of the resources entrusted to our care – natural resources, built resources and human resources – is embodied in the Native American concept of “Seventh Generation Thinking.” The Iroquois Nation describes the concept succinctly – “In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation… even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine.”

The Tribune Building Project represents a new approach to community development – one that builds trust, transparency and mutual responsibility. As demonstrated through the Project, Incourage is committed to collaboration and modeling supportive behavior by:

  • Being transparent in our intentions;
  • Sharing accurate information in a timely manner;
  • Inviting courage to experiment;
  • Valuing individual contributions/ideas;
  • Building self-confidence and participation;
  • Nurturing innovation; and
  • Holding each other in trust.

The Tribune Project also demonstrates key elements of our vision at Incourage – a community that works well for all people. Incourage has worked to identify what that means to us – residents fully engaged in their community… family supporting work for all that live here… equal access to opportunity regardless of race, sex, income or geography… a culture built on trust, access to relevant information and shared responsibility. These are just a few of the things we feel are essential in a community that works well for all people. But we don’t represent the entire community. What does a community that works well for all people look like to you?

One thing I know for sure, our full potential – as a region, a community, individual neighborhoods, organizations and human beings – will only be realized when all parties work together to build trust, share relevant information and support collective responsibility by virtue of our shared community. The Tribune Building is a good start.


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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.