What We Learned

The following is a reflection on our recent Building a Community of Belonging Forum from guest speaker John O'Brien. This summary is a portion of his comments. You can read his entire recap here. Recently, Connie Lyle O’Brien and I had the privilege of learning from people involved in the Building a Community of Belonging Forum. We are grateful to George Martin and Allison Hammond for the invitation and their hospitality, and to those who made time to tell us about the work of three community partners: Jenny Metz at the Kalamazoo Nature Center, Chris Broadbent and Rebecca Achenbach at the YMCA, and Jill Angell at the Boys and Girls Club.

We have had the chance to see what’s happening in many communities. In too many other places, families face many barriers to their children’s involvement in the same activities and organizations that benefit their brothers and sisters. Because of this, they withdraw.

Kalamazoo’s community partners shared that including others is a straightforward process of getting to know a person, figuring out the individual accommodation a person may require, and finding the most natural possible way to offer what the person needs to participate.

During the Forum, we also learned how the Arcadia Institute and its Partners approach inclusion:

•Strength in Numbers by allying with organizations that positively represent the community’s history of civic action.

•A Network of Support includes people who combine commitment to inclusion with relevant expertise. When situations are difficult, they encourage those directly involved to step back and take another look, offer alternative ways to understand the situation, and join in generating new options.

•Invest In Leadership by bringing organizational leaders together to assist and support each other.

•Cultivate a Desire for continuous improvement by encouraging organizations and individuals to participate in making Kalamazoo a place where all people belong.

John O'Brien

[Editor’s Note – You can join us on April 25, 9am-11am (location to be determined) for the next step in this exciting process. For more information, please contact the Arcadia Institute: info@thearcadiainstitute.org]