Exploring Belonging in Kitchener-Waterloo

Submitted by sylvia cheuy on September 1, 2015 - 5:59am

We Can Design Belonging, a report recently released by the Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation, researched the experience of belonging for residents of Kitchener, Waterloo and Woolwich and outlines an approach to improving people’s sense of belonging in their region. 

The report confirms, “belonging benefits individuals and communities…and is associated with good outcomes, such as relationship-building, self-growth, helping others, collaborating, being cared for and having fun.” Its in-depth look at belonging reveals that this frequently used yet loosely defined concept is the result of a complex array of experiences and contributing factors.  Key findings the report reveals include:

·        Life Transitions Impact Belonging - For individuals, times of transition in one’s life such as: immigration, moving, graduating, starting a family, or retiring can be particularly challenging to one’s sense of belonging;

·         Newcomers Need Specific Attention - Overall residents of the region are keen to welcome newcomers but improvement in this area is still needed, particularly for those who have English as a second language;

·         Suburban Community Design Challenges Belonging - Residents in the region’s suburban areas face more challenges in establishing a sense of belonging, in part because the design of these areas offers fewer opportunities to interact informally with one another; and,

·         Greater Links between Academia and Community Needed - The region’s strong academic community is considered to be quite distinct from the community overall and more should be done to integrate students and faculty into the life of the community.

Students of community will appreciate a section in the We Can Design Belonging report titled “The Opportunity Space” which explores the notion of belonging within the context of changes that are happening both locally and globally to uncover the challenges and opportunities for creating belonging that are unique to our times. Community-builders and facilitators will appreciate the report’s “The Methods” section which offers an overview of the various qualitative methodologies used to undertake the research and data-collection used to generate the report’s findings. 

Few would argue that having a strong sense of belonging is important to both individuals and communities. We Can Design Belonging is to be commended for its contribution to furthering our collective understanding of the factors that contribute to – or undermine – one’s sense of belonging and providing a deeper appreciation of the benefits, opportunities and strategies available to those eager to enhance it.   

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Sylvia, I enjoyed reading

Sylvia, I enjoyed reading your blog post and then the report that you reference. Every effort to  help us improve our ability to talk to each other, ask what we need, what we can offer, and how we can be better (not just me) is an important contribution to our communities. I think the question of belonging will become more and more urgent for all of us.

I agree Milton!  I think what

I agree Milton!  I think what I really valued about this resource is that it moved between the theoretical and the concrete realities within a specific place.  Having a grounding and appreciation in theory helps us to recognize, identify and replicate patterns...and having a grounding in the practical realities of a specific community helps us translate the theorectical into specific, do-able actions which I think is equally important.  This resource touched on both for me, which is why I really found it useful.