Chief Executive Officer
Tritle Consulting Group
After harnessing the power of collaboration and community building in her work supporting the flood recovery in Cedar Rapids, Tracy Tritle is taking her passion international in her role at the National Resilience Institute.
Within the past year, Ms. Tritle’s work ranged from collaborations on a film project exploring the issues behind juvenile incarceration in New Jersey to creating an international “resilience” think tank.
“The collaboration space is where I like it,” said Ms. Tritle, vice president of strategy and collaboration for a Cedar Rapids-based nonprofit and CEO of her own company, Tritle Consulting Services.
The mother of two was having a successful career in program management until the bottom fell out 15 years ago with the “implosion” of her employer, the telecommunications giant WorldCom. She was among those laid off, and felt it more personally than most.
“I’m an Iowa farm girl and my work is a core part of who I am,” Ms. Tritle said during her acceptance remarks at the Women of Influence event, describing her professional contributions as “integral to my self-worth.”
Curled up under the covers in bed, Ms. Tritle had to confront her fears and learn a lesson about resilience. She said the decision to reinvent her career propelled her in the entrepreneurial direction that led to her now-thriving consulting firm.
Initially, Ms. Tritle performed technical documentation work under contract to a software company. When the Cedar River flood and the Great Recession hit simultaneously in 2008, her technical writing work dried up and she began to focus on grant writing.
The Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation retained Ms. Tritle as community development collaboration coordinator for a three-year project with Linn County and the city of Cedar Rapids. The project involved creating a cohesive vision, identifying projects and securing funding for flood recovery initiatives.
The effort led to “amazing” opportunities, Ms. Tritle said, including a one-year training scholarship in creative leadership from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation with four others from the county. Ms. Tritle and Stephanie Neff developed a new facilitation model for community collaborations during the program. Their pilot project was connecting 20 area food initiatives that were disconnected and, at times, competing into the Food Environment Network, a coordinated group with aligned goals.
The rapid progress of the network through a series of workshops helped to validate the effectiveness of their EMERGE facilitation model.
On the heels of that experience, Ms. Tritle began working with Mollie Marti of Mount Vernon and others on a community resilience-building initiative to aid in flood recovery. By 2015, it had become the National Resilience Institute, and was being called in to support efforts in communities that had suffered losses such as clusters of student suicides and natural disasters.
Ms. Tritle was also one of several institute representatives who went to Israel last summer for a week of resilience training with the Israel Trauma Coalition, which coordinates response to traumatic events with 40 organizations. The training, which was the first offered by the coalition, took place within two miles of the high-conflict Gaza Strip. Since then, the institute has submitted a proposal to the coalition’s main funder to create an international resilience think tank.
Ms. Tritle’s nominators said she has repeatedly proven her effectiveness. Linn County Supervisor Linda Langston praised Ms. Tritle’s role in the restructuring of the Linn County Economic Development Grant program and her work in the city of Cedar Rapids’ All America City Award application.
Leslie Wright, vice president of community building for United Way of East Central Iowa, worked with Ms. Tritle in the creative leadership program. She said Ms. Tritle’s work with the Food Environment Network “has allowed Cedar Rapids to achieve numerous awards and remain a community of interest for funders, and other critical players such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.”
Ms. Tritle attributes her success to her circle of friends and professional supporters and family.
As an entrepreneur, Ms. Tritle’s advice to other women entrepreneurs is to be determined, but also introspectively measure where their passion and energy lies.
“If something’s really hard for you to do, move away from it,” Ms. Tritle said. “Go where you energy is leading you.”
For her, the energy is shifting from community development to social activism that transcends national borders.
“Our work is global,” she said.
– Dave DeWitte