Principle 3: Build Long-term Relationships for Deeper Capacity Growth
Excerpts from Helping Neighborhood Groups and Leaders Grow Stronger by David M. Scheie.
An organization rarely addresses its core problems right away. It often takes a year or more for a consulting relationship to get at and address core issues and motivations.
Seldom are a group’s first felt needs its primary problems. Groups often start out expressing interest in a specific problem. But what becomes apparent as a group works through these immediate practical problems is that the group’s long-term power really has to do with other issues and capacities.
People and groups rarely start out with an appetitive to make changes in these more deep-seated areas. They may not even be aware of their core dilemmas. They may think help is not available for these problems. Or group leaders may hesitate to make changes because they fear change will involve losing something precious (often a personal, private reward found in the problematic status quo). Or a group may feel it’s too risky to reveal inner weaknesses.
Being with a group as it works through its difficulties and demonstrating usefulness at these times, builds trust between the consultant and the group. Over time, as these critical passages accumulate and trust increases, receptivity to new ideas will expand, as will the possibilities for addressing a group’s deeper problems.
Learning happens both incrementally and through breakthrough insights. Capacity-building strategies should draw on both styles.
A long-term relationship doesn’t have to be intensely or continuously interactive. The point is to strive for some stability and continuity in who plays the consultant role with specific neighborhood groups, so that the group doesn’t have to start and re-start the trust-building process with a series of would-be adviser.