Building Relationships the “CIA” Way

Communication, involvement and appreciation.

As Michigan State University Extension increasingly finds itself working with outside organizations, it’s important to remember that we are here to connect people and organizations in order to affect positive social change. These positive changes can be in the form of healthier children, stronger local economies or better and more efficient farming locations and techniques. MSU Extension can only be truly effective by strengthening existing relationships and building new ones. This means that campus, and county staff, must become experts in building, maintaining and intensifying relationships.

An AmeriCorps organization called City Year uses the three letters CIA to remind them of the critical aspects of relationship building.

  • Communication
    It is vital that we communicate constantly with our community partners and stakeholders. This includes both positive and negative information. It’s important to share and publicize the good; more importantly to get the negative stuff out in the open so that it can be addressed before it causes major issues.
  • Involvement
    Involvement should be at the heart of everything that MSU Extension does for its constituents. It is important to never separate our processes form our anticipated results. This means that if 4-H staff is working do design, and deliver some kind of youth programming, then youth should be involved in that process. If the Master Gardeners are planning to build a community garden, then members of the community should be involved in all aspects of the project. When you involve the people you work with, then they develop a sense of commitment or ownership of the project.
  • Appreciation
    Appreciate the people or organizations that you have relationships with. Find ways to celebrate volunteers or provide special recognition to local community organizations or elected officials. Relationships thrive when everyone feels appreciated for their contribution.

For every relationship you manage, be sure to do a periodic CIA check to make sure that your relationships are healthy.

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