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What do we mean by belonging?

A sense of belonging is critical to our times. In his book Community: The Structure of Belonging, Peter Block explains that belonging has a dual meaning. First, it is the sense of being a part of something, of being amongst friends. You know, without question, that the others in the community see you as being part of the community. You are not an outsider, a visitor; rather the community is home. The second meaning is one of ownership, responsibility, and agency. The community belongs to you, and you are able to contribute to, care for, and nurture it.

Right now, there’s a drive to hyperlocal focused initiatives like the Participatory Budget Project and MutualAid. Also, exciting research emerging from HKS Architect’s Community BLOC, where they are investigating how to design agility into urban infrastructure so that when another pandemic or natural disaster strikes (ie climate change) there is an ability for folks to support each other in hyperlocalized “pods”.  

Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, says, “There is hope for humanity, but in order for us to get there, we really have to interrogate not just what it takes to change laws, but what it takes to change culture that supports laws that uplift humanity and also supports laws that serve to denigrate it.”

There is no blueprint for change in this case. The change we need to inject into our social fabric must emerge from and reside within a different process where all those who belong to a community participate in its design and development. A community is formed through collective caring and connecting; it provides people with a critical sense of belonging, it gives us a place to express our love and to receive love in return. In short, a community gives us the freedom to imagine what is possible, together.

To us, belonging means feeling you must speak up because you care about your community, and knowing that you don’t have to shout to have your voice be heard and valued.

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