News & Media

Kelly Ryan: Speaking Our Peace

Tue. Nov 22, 2016

At Incourage we turned inward over the past two weeks. Inward to examine our core values and work. Inward to consider what it means to pursue our vision – ‘a community that works well for all’ – in a nation divided.

Our collective discussions began to restore and affirm a sense of hope and connection among Incourage team members with different perspectives and life experiences. We share our experience with the hope that it will inspire you to pursue self-reflection and learning conversations.

Reflective Practice – stopping to assess what we’re learning, sharing knowledge, and making course corrections along the way – is embedded in the way we work at Incourage. This practice is represented well by a favorite quote from Maya Angelou:

“You did then what you knew how to do,
and when you knew better, you did better

We began this work with each of us sharing our personal values. Preparation for this exercise was not easy. It required deeper reflection inside ourselves and the willingness to be vulnerable among our colleagues. It required everyone to listen deeply and refrain from judgment.

Discussing ‘personal values’ led to a deeper and nuanced understanding of individual differences and similarities. We learned things about each other that we’d not known in the course of every day work and community life. “My values have been refined over time and with experience” was a frequent sentiment with an accompanying story to illustrate the point. In many cases, values were clarified – or made real – when we felt like we were made to be ‘the other’ or in an instance when we were angry about something that we felt was unjust. Or, conversely, when we were able to experience deep empathy and compassion for another human being.

There is greater appreciation, compassion and empathy within Incourage for the various roles and identities we each have and how they inform our world view, values and behavior. We have a deeper understanding that our relationship to one another is the real work of building community: our shared humanity, interdependence and connected futures by virtue of our shared place.

syp_poster_english_2016Incourage’s work builds community: the Tribune as resident-centered development focuses on shifting the sense of responsibility for our economic future from “they” to “me” to “we”; Blueprints for Tomorrow economic development training for key, local institutions focuses on interdependence and shared vision; and Workforce Central represents nearly a decade of investment and collaboration with a connected approach to manufacturing workforce that recognizes the interdependence and relationship of business, worker and community. Speak Your Peace, a program supported by Incourage since 2008 – with materials available in English, Spanish and Hmong – is particularly relevant and a timeless resource to support civil dialogue and behavior in all areas of our work.

So, at Incourage, we paused. We dedicated time to listen to each other. To seek deeper wisdom about difference. To discuss connections to our work and what it means to be a values-led organization. To affirm that our futures are connected by virtue of this place we call home.

As a result of this listening and learning there is knowing.

And – as Maya says – when we know better, we must do better.

You have our commitment to always strive to do better as we seek to realize a community – and nation – that works well for all people.

With gratitude and thanksgiving,

Team Incourage


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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.