Speed of Trust

Guest Correspondence

Most leaders know of Stephen Covey’s maxim that “change happens at the speed of trust.” The award-winning author wrote the book titled “Speed of Trust” to help transform business teams. Much of that best-selling book positions trust improvements with cost savings. In my experience, however, trust gained in small groups of social networks not only improves savings but also helps develop long-term stability through access to higher incomes and individual agency.

For more than a decade, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County has been building trust among small cohorts of parents to improve the lives of their children and grandchildren. We strive to help children by supporting adults in their lives, enriching our entire community. Through intentional partnerships among local preschools, public schools, nonprofit organizations, parents and state colleges, we are seeing measurable growth in credential attainment, increased wages and household incomes and a reduction in poverty rates. This is the core of our 2Gen approach and the foundation’s impact strategy.  

I recently had the honor to share successes from our community foundation’s focus on parents as students at the statewide Florida College Access Network Summit, an initiative to increase postsecondary completion rates in Florida. Two important partners joined me to share their stories: Mary Tucker, parent education navigator at Alta Vista Elementary School and Rokia Ramos, the parent of Alta Vista students who recently completed her LPN. Their perspective deepened the audiences’ understanding of the unique needs of student parents, a demographic that most post-secondary programs are just beginning to recognize.

We were invited to share these stories because our intentional focus on parents as students has shown concrete results and since 2013: 

• Some 80% of adults we work with completed their college programs

• Of those, 85% received wage increases

• The average annual wage increase has been $7,100

This work didn’t happen through any one individual organization or program. With local 2Gen partners such as the Women’s Resource Center, Horizon’s Unlimited Preschool, Sarasota County Schools, Literacy Council of Sarasota County, UnidosNow and State College of Florida, parents are receiving holistic support that benefits them, their children and, ultimately, our community overall. 

One unmeasurable, but critical component of this success was built from within the group of parents we have gotten to know. Now known as the “Parent Advisory Council,” trusted bonds have been built by this group of mothers sharing challenges of being a parent, achievements of academic success and questions about how to continue moving forward with huge life changes. 

This is vital to enhancing our community; when parents possess the agency and social capital that allow them to move through the world with more confidence, their children reap the reward of access to sustaining success. Through these parents, the work of the Community Foundation is being improved as well; Several parents take part in reviewing grant applications, offering insights about how the work of our nonprofit partners can make a difference in the lives of their families and neighborhoods.

None of this happens without trust. The trust built among parents seeking a better life for themselves and their children, along with the trust built in these different relationships between people and organizations help bring about a better tomorrow.

So, while Stephen Covey is focused on quarterly improvements to profit and loss statements – all very important goals – our speed of trust is taking a longer-view of building trust to change the trajectory of individual lives, families, and our community.

Kirsten Russell is vice president of Community Impact for the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.


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