What We Do
Our mission is to foster strong, safe communities by teaching residents to meet their own needs rather than waiting for “someone” to do it, and providing the tools they need to create the kind of place they want to live.
We believe that people want to be active and invested in their community and will work together to find solutions to problems if they have a framework for it.
Trickle Up Change is that framework. We founded Trickle Up Change on the belief that, like all living things, a society is only as strong and healthy as its "cells". Those cells are us...the people who come together to form families and neighborhoods and communities.
Our Framework for Change is built on the concept that resilient individuals, families and communities all require a firm foundation made up of four supporting pillars:
First Steps to a Strong Community
When a handful of people first come together and start looking at the needs of their community, one of the earliest problems is overwhelm; it’s looking at the whole elephant and wondering how in the world anyone could eat all of it.
That’s why we created the four pillars analogy. It is helpful for reducing overwhelm and a useful way of evaluating the health of a community and identifying the weak areas. It also provides the framework for building because each pillar strengthens the others.
Another potential stumbling block is the misconception that residents are powerless to create the change they want to see happen and that all improvement has to come from a government entity. It’s important to communicate with and have the support of the people who represent your community in city government, but the power to effect real change and establish community culture rests squarely on the shoulders of the residents. Almost all community problems are rooted in disconnectedness.
Apathy is without a doubt, the biggest obstacle to community building. People tend to live in little worlds and it can be a real challenge to get them to notice or care about anything beyond their own front gate.
When we began working in our first community, we faced what seemed like insurmountable apathy. The majority of the residents were renters and were highly transient. We realized the only thing most residents had in common was their children attended the same neighborhood schools. We recruited tutor/mentors from the neighborhoods and paired them up with the kids in the schools. This gave neighbors an ice-breaker to start talking with one another which led to them participating in the community projects going on at the schools. Soon the parents were volunteering and engaging with the teachers. The kids’ attendance improved, as did their literacy. We noticed a drop in transiency and fewer kids were moving mid-school year. We invited community members to join the Alliance and gave them opportunities to have a voice in community matters. We partnered with the local police department to create a Community Oriented Policing and Problem Solving (COPPS) program which gave citizens and law enforcement officers a platform to work together. As a result, blight was reduced to almost nothing, known drug havens were abated (usually torn down and converted to community gardens) and crime in general dropped to an all-time low. There was also an unexpected drop in Child Protective Services cases and recidivism (repeat offenses) dropped from 34% to zero.
Schools are usually very open to partnering with community groups and bring wonderful resources (like meeting space when you want to get a group together or sending information home with students to share with their parents). Building a relationship now with your neighborhood schools will help you as you move forward.
Another way to reach people is events. If the community turns out for a fair or car show or anything else, try to be there with something to give. Partner with a local business to hand out coupons or samples or see if a few of them would sponsor a face painting booth for the kids. Take advantage of any opportunity you have to get in front of people and let them know what you are doing.
You can find some great tools to help you get started and guide your efforts here
The culture of a community has nothing to do with ethnicity of the residents and everything to do with their values. The more the residents’ values align, the more comfortable they will feel with one another.
There is a lot of talk about diversity and celebrating differences. Experience shows, though, that differences divide and the community will divide along those same lines to create “Us” and “Them”. It’s human nature to fear “The Other” and to be suspicious of what we don’t understand or value.
It’s important to clarify that we aren’t advocating homogeneous Stepford or Borg communities; individual talents, skills, perspectives, etc. are very important and contribute to the overall strength of the entire community.
To build a strong Culture pillar, the community needs opportunities to interact for different purposes. It needs to celebrate and grieve and work and serve together. It needs a venue for making decisions, for establishing values, and for communicating with one another. It needs opportunities to interact with other communities and with the city as a whole. It must provide ways for leaders to identify themselves and develop their skills.
A strong community will establish its own way of meeting all of these needs and facing any challenges that arise and it will do so in a way that is much more satisfying to its residents than if it had all been left up to a government agency.
Our Smart Start Business Incubator helps entrepreneurs start and build strong businesses. Because businesses need money to start and grow, we also help communities create lending pools completely funded and administered by residents.
These local lending pools have proven themselves to be a crucial ingredient in the success of the local businesses they fund. To date, not one local loan has gone unpaid.
Smart Start can help any type of business, and has special interest in:
Vetpreneurs - helping returning service men and women start successful businesses
Kidpreneurs - teaching and promoting young entrepreneurs
Chuck in a Truck - helping journey-level trades people start their own businesses (you don't have to be a "Chuck" to qualify, we just like catchy names!)
The 2 Comma Mama - a year-long immersion program for women who are committed to creating a high-earning income from home
Encore Entrepreneurs - for people who have retired from their job, but want to put their valuable skills and experience to work in their own business
The Local Marketers Association brings together marketing professionals to help established businesses grow
Our Business Expansion Strategy Team (BEST for short) puts the power of Six-Sigma principles to work for businesses that are ready to make the leap from doing well to becoming a wealth-building asset
For businesses that need money to grow, we have a Funding Partners program that provides many more funding options in a much shorter turnaround time than traditional banks
Within every community, there are leaders. They are usually people with innate leadership skills who, intentionally or not, lead the way in shaping the culture of the community.
When these de facto leaders are given the opportunity to develop their skills and learn to lead on purpose, they are powerful change agents.
Strong communities develop leaders and a culture of leadership on purpose. They promote it to every resident and they support emerging leaders as they begin to step forward.
Strong communities know that if their youth don't have strong, positive leaders, they will find strong, negative ones, so they teach leadership skills and foster an environment that develops young leaders in schools.
Our first best-selling book, Your Debut as an Elite Thought Leader, was written for emerging leaders. Its purpose is to give leaders the platform they need to spread their message and reach the people who need it most. It's been shared around the world and in places like The Harvard Business Club. It's essential reading for anyone with a message.
Because it isn't enough to read about how to create change in the world, we created a training program and leaders support group called Backstage.
We also created a Facebook group called Your Soap Box for leaders to develop their presentation skills. Think of it as a mix of Toastmasters, open mic night and an old-fashioned town square. When leaders are comfortable getting up on their soap boxes and "putting themselves out there", they are welcome to join our speakers bureau.
The fourth pillar of a strong community is Environment. This encompasses a lot of territory from clean air/water and sustainable agriculture all the way to state of homes and infrastructure. Communities with a strong Environment Pillar are safe, attractive, healthy places to live.
Several studies all confirm that blight invites apathy and crime, so strong communities don’t permit blight to take hold. The cause of derelict properties is identified and remedied. If the cause is a resident’s lack of resources to clean up or repair the property, the community bands together to help. If the property is condemned, they work with the city to have the buildings removed and the lot used for a garden or greenspace until the property is sold. Many cities have found that turning a property over to community use is so beneficial that they keep them for that purpose rather than selling them.
Healthy communities have access to affordable, locally grown food. The Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) movement is a great model for solving the problem of food deserts and providing options for residents who want to have more control over the quality and selection of the food available.
One of the programs The Trickle Up Change Foundation is developing and testing incorporates CSA with the SHARE program which allows residents to purchase discounted food in exchange for service. In our model, residents would buy discounted “Shares” in exchange for service and the food purchased with the shares would come from a CSA cooperative.