Enhancing Belonging: A Guidebook for Individuals, Organizations, and Communities

Enhancing Belonging: A Guidebook for Individuals, Organizations and Communities
by The New Story Group of Waterloo Region

John Swinton writes, “To be included, you need to be present. To belong, you need to be missed.” While belonging must be felt to be experienced, there are indicators that can foster the realization of this deep human longing. A new resource, just released, goes beyond inclusion to offer very practical suggestions, themes and examples that provide a framework for the belonging experience.

Enhancing Belonging: A Guidebook for Individuals, Organizations, and Communities is the result of a project undertaken by the New Story Group of Waterloo Region in 2013. The group had been discussing inclusion but wanted to go deeper, to discover how and where belonging might occur for members of the community, especially those who are most susceptible to marginalization and exclusion. Led by four members, the Enhancing Belonging Team, the group wanted to provide a process and a resource to assist in creating the environment where belonging might more likely be achieved in community. Through engaging community, collaborating around emerging ideas and exploring stories, five indicators were identified that together provide the rich ground for the experience of belonging.

In the Enhancing Belonging guidebook these five interrelated themes are explored in depth to help the reader discover that a sense of belonging is more likely to be achieved when:

  • Community spaces are open, inviting and accessible.
  • People are welcomed and acknowledged
  • People can participate and contribute in ways that are personally meaningful.
  • There are opportunities to come together with others around common interests or goals.
  • Policies and practices work to create a culture that nurtures belonging.

Each of these themes are discussed, helpful strategies provided and examples given.

As well, there is a handy Belonging Strategy Checklist and additional resources listed at the back of the guide.

Enhancing Belonging is an important resource for individuals, groups, businesses and organizations who wish to intentionally pursue a community where All belong.


Click here to read Enhancing Belonging: A Guidebook for Individuals, Organizations and Communities


-Submitted by Roz Vincent-Haven


“What it Really Means to Hold Space for Someone”

“What it Really Means to Hold Space for Someone”

by Heather Plett

An attribute frequently associated with facilitation is “to make easy”, to help things be easier for someone. This can involve many ways of helping that are visible and concrete, while others  are subtler, such as the ability to “hold space” for another. In Heather Plett’s article she explores what this means through her experience of supporting her mother as she was dying. As Plett and her siblings were caring for their mom at home, they, in turn, were being “held” by a gifted palliative care nurse,  who provided  both practical and emotional support as, facilitator, coach, and guide… offering gentle, nonjudgmental help and guidance.”  Plett’s definition of “holding space” involves being:  “…willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on, without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.”

Plett notes that sometimes we find ourselves holding space for people while they hold space for others and that everyone needs this support at times: “ Even the strongest leaders, coaches, nurses, etc., need to know that there are some people with whom they can be vulnerable and weak without fear of being judged.”

She also offers 8 very useful tips to keep in mind as we grow in our ability to hold space for others, that involve shared power, trust, not overwhelming the person, and offering guidance with humility and thoughtfulness. Plett emphasizes that this role is not limited to professionals: “ It is something that ALL of us can do for each other – for our partners, children, friends, neighbours, and even strangers who strike up conversations as we’re riding the bus to work.”

Regardless of our role in facilitation, there is much to reflect on and learn from Plett’s article.

Click here to read “What it Really Means to Hold Space for Someone”

– Submitted by Susannah Joyce, Realizations Training & Resources


How Can I Help? Stories and Reflections on Service

How Can I Help? Stories and Reflections on Service, edited by Ram Dass and Paul Gorman, New York: Alfred A.Knopf, 1985

“We can, of course, help through all we do. But at the deepest level we help through who we are!”

There are so many things to consider in trying to be present with people as they explore  dreams and options for the life they most want … voice, power, rights, community, deep listening, creativity, respect, gifts, stories, relationships…all of these and many more are part of the picture. And because we are offering help…as facilitators, families and friends… the nature of how we help is foundational to our desire to make a difference.

How Can I Help? offers wonderful stories from people in a variety of helping professions, including doctors, nurses, social workers, clergy, peace activists, third world development workers and many others,  sharing what they have  learned about  “helpful help”  in Chapters entitled Natural Compassion;  Who’s  Helping?; Suffering; The Listening Mind; The Helping Prison; The Way of Social Action; Burnout; and Reprise: Walking Each Other Home.

How Can I Help? is a timeless and essential resource that inspires us  to stay true to the deepest meaning of our work. The book is available for purchase online at both Amazon and Chapters/Indigo in paper or as an e-book, for under 15.00

– Submitted by Susannah Joyce, Director, Realizations Training & Resources