Belonging is often described as a sense of community or when one can be their authentic self, to be seen and heard. When was the last time you felt as if you could be your authentic self? Have you ever felt that you could be your authentic self without judgment or ridicule? Do the organizations that you work for or volunteer in truly see you? Studies show that teams that are diverse operate at much higher levels than homogenous teams. It is important that leaders work to create teams that have a sense of belonging.
As a public engagement consultant and nonprofit volunteer, I have observed how different organizations live out their commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging every day. It is important that we endeavor to create spaces for all. I often encourage the organizations that I work with to go engage in intentional belonging. What I mean by that is, we should do more than just check a box. We should take true inventory of our organizational practices, policies, and work to gain insight on how those things shape organizational culture. If we truly want to create inclusive environments that allow all to thrive, we must be open to other viewpoints; understand that many of the narratives that have been shared with us are not whole; and take intentional steps toward change.
Creating a sense of belonging is so much bigger than checking a box. When we create space for all, we begin to see that everyone has something to contribute. Now, creating space will look different in each organization, it will require us to do some “self-work”. It will not be as easy as making a peanut butter jelly sandwich, but it will be worth it.
Over the years, I have found that organizations that are willing to do the following can begin the process of creating a culture of belonging.
- Seek to gain understanding of why establishing belonging is important.
- Be clear on your organization’s goals for creating and fostering an inclusive environment.
- Be willing to change policies and procedures that do not align with your commitment to creating a culture of belonging.
In closing, creating a sense of belonging will be different for each organization because people are unique. Ultimately, each of us wants to be able to show up as our authentic self – not to be judged on the basis of our skin color, hair, sexual orientation, religious beliefs or any other identifier. We need to be intentional about creating spaces that allow all to feel empowered to contribute. Ultimately, this will have a positive impact on the organization and the work we do together.
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