In my last blog, I discussed the power of trust in collective impact, speaking from my personal experience in South Dallas to facilitate a community revitalization collective impact initiative. This effort combines systems-level players with a grassroots approach, resulting in multiple layers of community stakeholders. With so many disparate participants at the table, the importance of trust building cannot be overstated.
We still have a lot of progress to make, but we’ve committed to building trust with community stakeholders through the following approaches:
- Be transparent – both with the Steering Committee and community stakeholders in our planning process and decision-making. Through community meetings and resident participation on the Steering Committee (nearly half of our members live in South Dallas), community stakeholders have witnessed and contributed to the process since its inception, thereby increasing their familiarity and comfort with the effort’s trajectory
- Seek authentic resident voice – Steering Committee members conducted over 65 one-on-one resident conversations, in addition to hosting community working sessions with 100 plus attendees. These community conversations and meetings not only generated resident ownership, but also informed the focus areas and goals for the collective impact effort. The Common Agenda is truly rooted in community priorities
- Enlist credible leadership – we recruited Steering Committee Co-Chairs and a Backbone who are well known and respected by community stakeholders. Their names alone open doors to a network of residents and community organizations that would be difficult to access on our own – they truly bring people to the table
- Keep your word – we completed the key activities we promised the Steering Committee and community we would do – seemingly simple, but tremendously important to a community suffering from a legacy of “flavor of the month” community development initiatives
- Maintain a neutral position – rather than establishing political affiliations with candidates running for city council, or endorsing any one hot button issue, we’ve encouraged bipartisan involvement. By remaining neutral, we’ve established our platform as one focused on inclusivity and outcomes, which we hope will preserve the longevity of the effort
- Root the backbone in the community – the backbone established an office in South Dallas and, where possible, employs residents to staff the organization and prioritizes using local service providers. This builds both community capacity and the leadership of the backbone to carry the work forward. Importantly, it also signifies to residents that the Backbone is an accessible community organization that truly understands community needs and dynamics, and is working on their behalf
- Create space for relationship building – next month we’re hosting a “milestone mixer” to celebrate our accomplishments and allow for networking among the Steering Committee, our work group chairs, and advisors. Intentionally organizing informal opportunities for Steering Committee members to build relationships outside of monthly meetings facilitates more authentic and fruitful dialog during monthly meetings
These approaches are applicable to any community or broader collective impact effort. Although they may not seem like rocket science, most practitioners know trust building can be a long road and difficult to put into practice. We’d love to hear your stories and learnings on this topic.
What have you found to be most effective for building trust between stakeholders in your collective impact work?