Aron DiBacco

The importance of trust

By Aron DiBacco

How cooperatives can build trust in the face of conflicts is the topic of ROC-NH workshops in March and April.

Trust is the assumption that others have our well-being at heart, or at least intend us no harm. When we have trust, we forgive missteps and mistakes. When it is lost or never given, we assume ill intent and sometimes attack before we can be attacked.

The lack of trust makes everything harder, including collaboration in resident-owned communities (ROCs), those manufactured-home cooperatives that have taken the leap to own and manage themselves. This is a difficult leap, even with trust.

As a ROC-NH technical assistant, I have the privilege of supporting hard-working ROC boards of directors. While dealing with failing septic systems, dangerous trees, and rising taxes and water costs, they strive to improve their co-ops while keeping housing costs affordable for their members.

They also nurture something less tangible, a sense of community safety and pride.


ROC-NH's Aron DiBacco and Julia Curry of Cooperative Development Institute led a conflict management workshop at Co-ops Celebrating Community.

It's complicated, this job they accept for no pay because it must be done and they can. They often squeeze it in between kids and paid work and all the other things life offers and asks of us. Many have never before been responsible for corporate bylaws, large loans, grants, community rules, and dealing with those trees and water lines. It can be stressful. Few of us are at our best when we are stressed. We make mistakes. We bark at people. We assume ill-intent. We sometimes lose trust.

But not always.

I am struck by how some board members look out for each other, by the grace they extend when something isn't done right or simply isn't done, by the ways they take part of the load when the person carrying it needs a break, and by their recognition that (usually) everyone is doing the best they can with the resources they have. I see their basic trust in each other.

The question, then, is how cooperatives can build trust in face of the conflicts that sometimes arise between board members, the board and community members, and neighbors. This was the topic of a conflict management workshop offered at the recent ROC-NH Cooperatives Celebrating Community conference.

In this workshop, about 20 ROC residents discussed the kinds of conflicts they face and learned they weren't the only ones. They shared ways they have addressed these conflicts and learned some additional tools. These tools included how to really listen to others, collaborating to create shared solutions, and the importance of keeping and respecting healthy personal boundaries.

If you'd like to learn more about these and other tools, ROC-NH is offering a free two-part online training on Effective Communication (in March 2023) and Conflict Management (April 2023). Write to or watch the ROC-NH Facebook page for more information. We’d love to see you there.

Aron DiBacco is a ROC-NH technical assistant and organizational trainer.

ROC-NH™ is a program of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, Inc. and a ROC USA® Certified Technical Assistance Provider.
ROC-NH is a registered service mark of ROC USA, LLC.


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