OUR Theory of Change 

A Theory of Change describes why and how a particular change is expected to happen in a given context. For Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT), we are working and living with three elements: narrative change, relationship building and structural transformation. And while we refer to it as a theory of change, there is nothing theoretical about it: the work is rooted in the experiences of Initiatives of Change and our partner organizations over the last twenty-five years in Richmond and around the U.S.  

The element of structural transformation makes this enterprise unique, and revolutionary. We are boldly, and in faith, stepping out: believing in the work that has come before, excited about the work that lies ahead, and certain that Richmonders are ready to wrestle with the legacies and realities of an inequitable history.  

The process for this transformation is as important as the end result. Across Richmond, we will work with partners and individuals to create an atmosphere conducive to difficult conversations, healing, and transformation. Achieving real transformation – including reforms to systems that have their roots in some of our worst moments in history – requires levels of political courage and trust-based collaboration that can only be achieved by individuals who have the vision, integrity and persistence to sustain long-term efforts.  

This work is generational. However, making incremental progress in changing the current status quo of racial separation, discriminatory laws, and structured economic inequality, will reinforce relationships and narrative change efforts. We envision a TRHT model where the pillars of Narrative Change, Racial Healing and Relationship Building, and Transformation are equal, mutually reinforcing efforts. 

narrative change 

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With its TRHT partners, IofC will continue to challenge patterns and systems that perpetuate incomplete or skewed versions of racial history in the United States. It's time to tell the truth. 

Activities in this program area will focus on educating and building awareness about the manner in which history and the legacy of racial history is taught, communicated and informs the manner in which our communities are constructed. Narrative change work is needed across all sectors: in education at all levels, faith communities, businesses, philanthropy, the arts & cultural institutions, etc. We anticipate that the early narrative change activities will be undertaken by the various cultural institutions that are already doing important narrative change work through museum exhibits, Richmond neighborhood history tours, community classes, or artistic productions.  We also anticipate cooperating with the Richmond Slave Trail Commission as it progresses in its plans for a museum and historical site in downtown Richmond.  

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Shelli Jost Brady

CEO, Narutka International
Community Trustbuilding Fellow, 2016

When we say 'tell the truth' let us mean tell ALL the truth. The beautiful bits, accomplishments and contributions that we hide from others. And, the not so beautiful bits, the systematic deconstruction of people and cultures over decades, that we hide from others. There's one history, one truth. Tell it in its entirety.

relationship building

Tanya Pruett and Franklin Jennings, Community Trustbuilding Fellows, 2017

Tanya Pruett and Franklin Jennings, Community Trustbuilding Fellows, 2017

The work of racial healing and relationship building will be based on a core belief in the power of our individual and communal stories, and the need to have requisite skills and behavior to effectively receive and share such stories with another, to dialogue, and to understand. In the words of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the aim will be for “individuals to heal from the wounds of the past and build mutually respectful relationships across racial and ethnic lines, relationships that honor and value each person’s humanity.” 

Ultimately, the most needed reforms in our communities require a courage and trust-based collaboration that can only be achieved by individuals who have the vision, integrity, resilience and relationships to achieve such. Through TRHT, IofC will support racial healing by organizing a targeted program of facilitated healing experiences for the sharing of personal stories, community rituals, and relationship/trust-building activities. 

The primary initiative within this area will be the deepening and broadening of our long-established IofC Community Trustbuilding Fellowship (CTF) program – a distinguished, residential program currently based in Central Virginia but known nationally, designed to increase the capacity of community leaders to overcome divisions of race, culture, economics and politics by mobilizing a coalition of skilled facilitators, competent coalition builders, credible influencers and racial equity advocates.

Mark M. Gordon

CEO, Bon Secours-Richmond East
Community Trustbuilding Fellow, 2015

In our “wired and electronically connected” world, it’s ironic that one of the most pressing circumstances of our times remains isolation and segregation from others who are different.  The greatest educator is familiarity, which has the power to eliminate ignorance and fear.


Along with narrative change and relationship building, an equal investment must be made to address the policies and structures that remain as barriers to opportunity and equity in our communities. While IofC’s particular strength has always been convening multi-sector participants to discuss narrative change and racial healing, in TRHT we will be more strategic and intentional in convening these multi-sectoral leaders and communities to help challenge institutionalized systems that perpetuate separation (i.e., segregation and concentrated poverty; law (civil, criminal, & public policy); and economy (structural inequality and barriers to opportunity). This effort will ensure that the marginalized communities within our region that we seek to impact, are formally and actively included in the visioning, planning and transformative actions within this component of the program. 

Duron Chavis

Community Engagement Coordinator
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Community Trustbuilding Fellow, 2015

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is extremely excited to participate in TRHT as an institution and to explore how issues such as environmental stewardship, environmental justice and food justice intersect and serve as a lightening rod toward the 'right now, not later' need to deal with racial healing and transformation. In my perspective, I see this myth of white superiority as an impediment to human evolution and it is not only killing us, but these systems of oppression are killing the planet too. These two realities are inextricably linked, that of how we exploit the planet and how human beings exploit other human beings. The public garden as partner space has the capacity to really help people see that issues like climate change and food justice affect all of us as a community.

John Moeser

Former Professor of Urban Studies & Planning, VCU
Former Senior Fellow, Bonner Center for Civic Engagement, UofR

We seek an inclusive city where every person is valued and no one is left behind; where all of our neighborhoods are neighborhoods of opportunity; where our schools are no longer segregated but filled with children from every level of income and who acquire the knowledge and skills that will prepare them for college or for living wage entry-level jobs; where our businesses are known for excellent job-training and a solid record of hiring Richmond residents; where innovative social enterprises comprised of worker-owned businesses are created and financed by our foundations and anchor institutions; and where public transportation links the interior of neighborhoods to major commercial and industrial thoroughfares in the city as well as the surrounding counties.
Richmond Times-Dispatch, October 8, 2016