Tuesday Tip for Practice: Beyond Inclusion…to Belonging

Jul 28, 2020

Beyond Inclusion…to Belonging


Inclusion in organizations is traditionally viewed within a framework of new members joining something that already exists. They show up as a guest to be welcomed or may even be seen (consciously or unconsciously) as an interloper. The underlying message is: "You can join my thing, but it's mine." The rules, norms, structure, and culture are already set. The joiners—oftentimes individuals from marginalized groups—are expected to make all the accommodations to fit into "the way we do things here." This debate tends to happen over and over for different populations. One key example was when women came into the U.S. workforce in larger numbers in the 1970s. Today similar debates recur—around race, disability, religion, etc....yet each time the message defaults to "well, if they want to come and be part of our thing, let them do the changing." 

Belonging provides an alternative framework, suggesting that when you join something you participate in defining it. You also have power and standing to co-create it. It becomes your thing too, and our thing collectively. This leads towards a deeper approach to engaging in internal organizational work on racial equity and justice. We do this work out of a sense of love—all of us doing and building something together.

This snapshot provides an abbreviated synopsis of the remarks of john a. powell to the 2019 Collective Impact Convening, explaining the reasons for changing the name of the institute he directs at the University of California, Berkeley. Now called the Othering and Belonging Institute, it was formerly named the Haas Institute for a Fair & Inclusive Society.

To Watch

"From the 'Why' to the 'How': Operationalizing Equity in Collective Impact" with john a. powell and Michael McAfee of PolicyLink
Video of full plenary session
(powell introduction and remarks start the main content at 42:45)

"Building Belonging in a Time of Othering" with john a. powell
Extra credit video
(presentation slides and transcript also available for download)

Reflection Questions

  1. How does the "traditional" conception of Inclusion show up in SCRA spaces and in other organizations where you are engaged?
  2. Where do you see organizations (or their sub-groups) shifting to a Belonging frame? 
  3. What does/would this look and feel like?
  4. What norms or practices could be shifted to move to a Belonging frame in SCRA or other organizations? What would we have to unlearn/relearn?
  5. How does this conceptualization of organizational Belonging align with Community Psychology values?

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