The term belonging can be elusive in both meaning and understanding. What does it mean to belong to something? Is it necessary to belong in order to be acknowledged by others? What does belonging look like in a community?
As defined by John A. Powell, director of the UC Berkeley Othering & Belonging Institute, belonging is the practice of respecting that includes the right to both co-create community structures and make demands of society. Belonging provides opportunity to participate in the design of social policies and practices. Belonging requires that well-being and humanity is paramount.
In short, belonging is about connecting with others.
With this definition, it seems rather obvious to think that we would already are a community of belonging in Findlay and Hancock County. However, in 2018 we learned from the Hancock County Community Health Assessment that one in four people believing that diversity is not fully embraced. In 2021, this condition improved slightly to one in five people believe diversity if not fully embraced. But, knowing that 20% of our community does not feel Findlay and Hancock County provides a community of belonging compels us to get to work – the urgency is real and necessary.
Why does this matter? From an economic viewpoint, if a community is to have economic success, it must be willing to embrace social diversity. An unwillingness to see the importance of diversity in its entirety will stifle economic growth. But more importantly, creating a community of belonging is, simply, the right thing to do.
And, there is evidence this is happening. Downtown business are actively demonstrating their desire to create a community of belonging by opening their doors and offering representation of diversity. The Findlay Pride event this past June was embraced by the community, and the Findlay Night Out event in August had record attendance. Belonging is a common point of discussion at many community meetings, and has become a pivotal strategic imperative of Findlay City Schools. And, there is a coalition of community leaders and advocates who have dedicated time, energy, and passion to creating a community of belonging through action, practice, and policy.
Our commission to ensure that even the most vulnerable have an opportunity to co-create and make demands of society requires us to fully embrace humanity – with humility and curiosity. Without this, we cannot expect to create a space where belonging is a reality.
Creating and holding space for others to belong is a challenge that requires us to bridge – for us to serve as a bridge between each other where we recognize the necessity of each person’s worth.
While we may not be at a place to confidently say that Findlay and Hancock County is a community of belonging – yet – we are certainly making great strides. And, in order to make lasting change, it takes all of us to make connections with each other.
As a wise mentor has recently said, “The diversity in all of us is the richness of our society. May we humbly find a way to create a seat at the table where all belong.”