Building belonging: bilateral dialogue and exchangeMonday, November 27th, 2017 | JP Nikota
Every newcomer has to find their own way to belong in their community, and every community needs to find their own way to be welcoming. And if we want to be better at belonging and better at welcoming, it makes a lot of sense to share ideas.
This past summer, Community Foundations of Canada hosted a bilateral meeting between leaders of Canadian and German community foundations and academic sectors to discuss how best to set up community-level systems to respond to the demands of rapidly changing demographics.
“This gathering set in motion for participants a momentum to push the dialogue further and faster around how to help refugees and vulnerable populations,” says Ahmad Firas Khalid, PhD candidate in Health Policy and Queen Elizabeth Scholar. “We need to learn how to implement programs that get at the core of what we all want to see in our communities: a place where people truly feel like they belong.”
The Robert Bosch Foundation, Bürgerstiftung Stuttgart (Stuttgart Community Foundation), and the Breuninger Foundation all joined Canadian representatives to tackle a series of challenging questions, including:
- How does identity grow and evolve?
- What role does individual and organizational identity play in the work of a community foundation?
- What builds belonging in a community? What are the systems we interact with and how do those experiences create different and shared experiences?
- Why and how do people feel a sense of belonging and identity and assume responsibility for their family, community, or society?
“Opportunities are few and far between to truly stop and examine what exactly identity and belonging mean,” says Corinne Adélakoun, Director of Communications at Fondation du Grand Montréal. “Despite their importance, these two notions are too often pushed to the edges of our attention when they should, in fact, be central to how we interact with others and define our work and ambitions.”
One critical component of belonging, of course, is interpersonal connections — real, face-to-face interactions that forge lasting relationships. That is why gathering to talk about belonging is important: being together helps overcome differences in culture, language and beliefs.
“You need to share parts of yourself in a very personal way before you can truly feel that you belong,” says Liane Carter Ladner, Marketing and Communications Manager at the Guelph Community Foundation. “I’ve tried to change the lens through which I view people that I encounter at the foundation and have started every meeting with a team building exercise with amazing success. Once people experience that belonging connection, the input and interactions are powerful.”