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Belonging is a Community Learning Journey by John Lord

November 27, 2014
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john1Thanks to John Lord for permission to reprint this update about the Belonging Conversations, from the new Belonging Newsletter.  If you’d like to subscribe, email John: johnlord_8@sympatico.ca

The Belonging Conversations sponsored by the New Story Group raised a number of questions and insights that challenge conventional thinking. The conversations kept returning to community and inclusion as foundations of belonging. The New Story Group has an emerging definition of belonging that addresses these foundations.

Belonging is about full inclusion, where you are seen, known, welcomed, accepted, included, respected, connected and valued.

It is in community where we experience this kind of authentic belonging. Paul Born, in his new book Deepening Community, describes “deep community” as places and spaces where relationships are meaningful and people share stories, enjoy one another by spending time together, care for one another, and work together for a better world.

The Belonging Conversations highlighted that belonging is a community learning journey because it often requires us to shift our perspective. We may have been trained as a professional to know best, and so we need to learn how to listen and engage others. We may be part of a formal organization that is highly professionalized, and we may need to learn to step back and let community lead. We may provide formal services, but we may need to understand the power of “community as a first resort” and see the potential of associational life and relationships within community.

When we re-frame how we think about community, three main outcomes often follow. First, it impacts our personal life and how we connect with others. We become more intentional about building relationships, reaching out to neighbours, and enhancing associational life wherever possible. Second, at the organizational level, we begin to stress community

as a first resort and intentionally support community to do the job that it can do best. At the system level, we design policies that enhance community and belonging, whether around inclusion, social services, green spaces, or the arts.

The idea of “community connecting” was a key theme during the Belonging Conversations. Most communities can benefit from programs and initiatives that enhance community connections, such as those described on page 3 of this Newsletter. Each of us also need to aware of when we can be informal connectors, bringing hospitality and invitation to our personal lives, our neighbourhoods, and our workplaces.

John Lord, Chair New Story Group

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