What is Relational Development Anyway?


New Leaf uses the term "Relational Development" to describe the way in which we choose to approach our mission of equipping and empowering local leaders to affect growth and impact in their communities. 

Simply put, relationships are the key to unlocking people’s potential. But how does that relationship develop and how does one go about actually helping someone through “friendship”? It can be a daunting task. And I’m here to tell you that it’s not always easy because it requires work… face to face work!

Knapps Relational Development Model is a scholarly approach to breaking down the stages of any human relationship, whether it’s a business, personal, or romantic relationship. But we can learn a lot from this in how we apply it to New Leaf’s process of mentoring men and women through the choppy waters of getting a small business off the ground. 

The cycle of relational development is broken down into two main phases: Coming Together, and then eventually Coming Apart

That might sound like a negative thing but it’s actually what a program like ours wants to see, especially the separation leads to the creation of new relationships in an environment where we can’t always be as impactful. Let’s look at the process quickly and how New Leaf applies it. 

Coming Together (Usually long-term)


This is the first point of contact. Impressions are made, and introductions offered. This stage influences whether individuals move forward or separate. For New Leaf, this happens when we identify a community and begin to discuss with local leaders and influencers who we are and what the needs of that community are. It’s important to understand the landscape, motivations, and people of a community before we dive into mentoring entrepreneurs.


Once some trust is built, individuals at this stage begin sharing more private information and looking for reciprocity which signals the deepening of a relationship. Once we have found a core group of business men and women, New Leaf hosts an orientation phase where mentors and mentees get to meet and break the ice. This is a time to identify shared interests and goals as well and sets the stage for the coming year.

Integration & Bonding

Mentors and their mentees begin meeting weekly to discuss and work on the challenges within their business. This often comes with personal and family challenges that must be overcome. A very important part of our model is spending time investing not only in business development, but spiritual healing and family guidance. Many times, small changes create massive impacts on the lives of those we work with. As time goes on, the relationship deepens and the entrepreneur begins taking bigger and bolder steps forward.

Coming Apart (End of the Program)


As with all good things, they must come to and end. While lasting relationships may continue after the year, our mentors will move on to new mentees. As the year draws to a close the frequency of meetings decreases and allows the entrepreneurs to power ahead confidently on their own steam. It’s extremely important to us that we don’t create environments where those we help fail as soon as the training wheels come off. 


After entrepreneurs exit the program at the end of the year, we still maintain a relationship with them even though they aren’t meeting with a New Leaf mentor. The following year is an important stage at which our team seeks to connect the businesses to outside resources, organisations, and funding that will take them to the next level. Our heart is never to push someone out of the nest and expect them to fly on their own. In the spirit of community we seek to create a new relationship that carries them even further.

Onward and Upward

It is incredible to see what belief in another human being does to ignite their hope, creativity, and passion to succeed. New Leaf is not the final answer to the poverty problem. It will take many more people truly caring for other people more than they care about statistics and deliverables. It will take an understanding that one’s spiritual and emotional development is as important as their economic development. And if we continue forward in that way… we will see poverty eliminated. We will see communities taking ownership of their surroundings and we will see healing.