Josh Ballew (CTF 2016) is a Dispute Resolution Specialist in the Virginia Attorney General’s Office. He writes of his experience as a Community Trustbuilding Fellow.
Shortly after arriving in Richmond, VA, my wife and I applied for the Community Trustbuilding Fellowship as newlyweds. I was eager to learn how I could play a role in what I saw as a great need for constructive dialogue in society. The Fellowship was a life changing experience that I strongly urge you to consider applying for. The following are three truths about trustbuilding that I learned through the Fellowship: the necessity of personal transformation, the nature of belonging, and value of empowering my community.
The Fellowship’s operating assumption that personal transformation is what leads to social change intrigued me. Was this a disguised form of the idea that you have to help yourself before you can help others? From my experience, that sentiment is only used as an excuse to delay social change. However, it has also been my experience that social change is undermined by a lack of self-awareness and reflection. The Fellowship beautifully brought these two seemingly opposing positions together in harmony. The first truth of trustbuilding is that personal transformation helps social change flourish, and social change gives personal transformation its purpose. Trustbuilding requires purposeful transformation.
Once I was in the Fellowship, it quickly became apparent that belonging would be an integral part of trustbuilding. I grew up in a small Portuguese-colony-turned-Chinese-gambling-mecca. What was I doing in a room with people discussing generations of hate, hurt, and healing in the American context? I would evaluate my purpose in the group and wonder if I really belonged. Through this intense process of questioning I learned the second truth of trustbuilding, that people must take precedence over productivity. I judged whether a person belonged by what I believed was their contribution. Trustbuilding does not occur between ideal humans. It can only be accomplished when I accept the person in front of me, including myself, as worthy of trust just as they are.
Lastly, I benefited greatly in my professional work as a Dispute Resolution Specialist at the Attorney General’s Office by going through this Fellowship. As someone who attempts to resolve disputes between consumers and businesses I am routinely criticized by complainants with unresolved disputes. The third truth of trustbuilding is that all must be empowered to do the work that is theirs. I empower complainants by reminding them that they are the ones who know what resolution would look like better than anyone else. I cannot determine that for them. Our office’s process is an opportunity for them to pursue resolution, and I am here to assist and facilitate that resolution. The Fellowship has equipped me to empower others and that is how trust is built.
Whoever you are, the Community Trustbuilding Fellowship is right for you. Like anything worthwhile, the Fellowship will be difficult, but I can guarantee there is no other way to learn how to engage in the rewarding task of trustbuilding than to actually do it. Apply to the Community Trustbuilding Fellowship today so you can be building trust tomorrow!