Relationships are at the core of everything we do within holistic community development. At the foundation of every project are people who have a vested interest in the work. These stakeholders are all connected to each other. Each has their own dynamics and roles to play in the grand plan for your community. This means they have different needs! We want to share how you can collaborate with 6 core groups of stakeholders as you make lasting change.
Neighbors are the first and most important stakeholder group to engage. Organizations often tend to make assumptions about the overall needs of a community. Instead, establish a channel where neighbors can share what they WANT to see in their community. These community members should be the ones to always take the center stage. Forging authentic relationships is the very first step in making an impact. It is these foundational relationships that will determine all other engagements to come.
#2 Local Partners and Organizations
Partnerships can be the secret sauce to pivotal changes in community development. There is no silver bullet to all community needs, but bringing different organizations and institutions together is a great start. Not only will you encounter a wide range of expertise, you’ll integrate more deeply into your neighborhood. Much like with neighbors, partnerships take work and practice to cultivate. Listening and sharing leadership is key.
A healthy staff is the foundation of any thriving organization. Take time to make sure your team understands the vision and is excited about it. Help them know where they fit.
Taking time to recognize the important work your staff contributes is key to promoting employee welfare. Consider signs of appreciation specific to their needs and likes. A handwritten note of sincere words and praise will go a long way. Their confidence in your organization can only benefit you and your community.
#4 Financial Supporters
Lasting change within a community oftentimes requires investment of both time and funds. Funders can help a community meet its impact goals by providing perspectives and resources to projects. Offering financial supporters a way to make lasting change is a huge way of promoting equity.
At the same time, it’s critical to ensure that financial supporters’ voices complement neighborhood ones. Look for ways that supporters can connect with the community. Be up front about your priorities to follow neighborhood voices. Offer local events. Funders can enable strategic community events and engagements that bring neighbors together. This proximity and engagement they provide, can cultivate a thriving community. It also lends space for communication between the community and funders.
Volunteers are often the most passionate supporters of your organization and community projects. Much like with staff, their commitment needs to be openly highlighted and praised. This can take many forms like publicly recognizing their work or ensuring their input is always welcomed and considered. Creating an enjoyable environment with open communication and clear expectations is key. Ensuring strong connections between volunteers and staff is also a strategic way to encourage their work.
#6 Local Officials & Leaders
You’re not the one wanting to come alongside the neighborhood! Every community has local communities and leaders. Your role within your community is not to replace these leaders, it is to work with and alongside them. Fostering relationships that actively acknowledge their contributions is key to establishing this partnership. A great way to begin these partnerships is by leveraging networks of other members of your community. Often, leaning on existing connections between a neighbor and local officials can be the perfect foundation. This approach is an impactful way to establish proximity and common goals.
We need creative solutions to real problems plaguing struggling communities. A foundational way to find these solutions is by forming genuine connections with stakeholders. Learning their individual needs, preferences, and priorities are fundamental. Taking the initiative to actively listen to these groups from the beginning is essential. It’s how you understand what your community goals are and how to best achieve them. As we like to say, change moves at the speed of trust.