Why Belonging Matters

What is Belonging Matters?

Watch the video to understand why building a culture of belonging is integral to our processes and framework.

What We Believe

At the heart of every social problem, you will find a group of people who feel “pushed out.” We believe this group of people are the experts. They know how they were “pushed out” and what values and relationships were eroded in the process.

Our proven Belonging Matters framework, tools and processes build genuine cultures of belonging. Our framework supports the leadership of those most impacted by the social problem you are working on and supports decision makers to listen in new ways and act on what they hear.

As a result, your social change strategy engages diversity, unleashes untapped talents and always leads to collaborative, sustainable and innovative outcomes.

Belonging Matters - collage

Belonging Matters Beginnings…

In 2006, Jessie Sutherland launched the Finding Home: How To Belong In A Changing World Initiative. Within two years it won a provincial innovation award for its positive impact in communities across British Columbia. And within 5 years it had reached over 2.5 million people.

After 10 years of communities finding home, there was a yearning among many to focus on the tenacity of building a sense of belonging and nurturing the outcomes that can come from people working well together. So in 2016, we changed the name of the Finding Home Initiative to Belonging Matters.

Listen to this video to hear the full story.

When Belonging Matters Was “Finding Home”

Before our evolution to Belonging Matters, our projects involved "Finding Home" as a unifying framework. In this past "Finding Home" project, we supported elders from diverse ethno-cultural communities to lead the change on preventing and raising awareness on the issue of elder financial abuse in their communities.

What Community Organizations Are Saying

Catherine Leach Executive Director, Kitsilano Neighbourhood House

Our community enjoyed enormous success...

Our community enjoyed enormous success with the Belonging Matters Initiative, connecting with over 70 youth and youth service providers and amongst other things completing the Westside Youth Asset Mapping Project.

Karen Larcombe South Vancouver Neighbourhood House, Former Executive Director

We love Belonging Matters.

We love Belonging Matters. Anyone who wants to do a piece of creative community development, around any issue, should talk to Jessie. The relationships built in this way are sustainable relationships.

Claudine Matlo Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House: Director of Community Programs

...move forward together in remarkable ways.

It is amazing to see multicultural individuals come together as one group with a common purpose and then move forward together in remarkable ways.

The Impacts & Benefits of Belonging Matters

Individual Impact:

  • Experience personal transformation
  • Increase a personal sense of belonging
  • Connect to community services and programs
  • Engage in and build peer support
  • Generate self-organizing projects to facilitate community change

People with lived experience who participate in Belonging Matters feel empowered and respected through the creation of meaningful peer and community connections. They begin to foster an increased sense of belonging and generate self-organized projects to create community change. Throughout the process, people with lived experience are supported as experts and leaders.

Belonging Matters Benefits - Individual Impact

Organizational Impact:

  • Create work cultures that embrace diversity
  • Collaborate to solve workplace issue
  • Improve service delivery
  • Develop volunteer leadership
  • Foster intercultural & social cohesion

We recognize your organization may have unique needs. The Belonging Matters framework can provide customized leadership training your organization will appreciate. It includes valuable applications for engaging diversity, fostering high engagement for informing service improvement, planning, mentoring and volunteer development.

Belonging Matters Benefits for Organizations

Community Impact:

  • Empower the voice of those with lived experience for leading and creating community change
  • Accelerate and increase impact of social change goals
  • Strengthen intercultural collaboration across diverse communities
  • Ignite intergenerational relationships for collective action
  • Foster collaboration & social cohesion across community divides

Community-led change recognizes the strengths and agency of all participants and is a sustainable, collaborative approach. Community organizations and workplaces that use the Belonging Matters framework, process and trainings to facilitate community-led change are more prepared to effectively address and solve complex social issues to create long lasting and meaningful change.

Belonging Matters Benefits - Community Impact

Governmental Impact:

  • Strengthen inter-agency and multi-sector collaboration
  • Bridge the gap between people with lived experience and system influencers
  • Build trust with community members
  • Identify emerging trends for making better decisions and sustainable change
  • Increase effectiveness to meet the needs of the communities you serve

When government departments utilize Belonging Matters framework, they can identify opportunities, emerging trends and service improvement needs. As a result, government agencies are better equipped to create more evidence-based policies and make better decisions about where to best place resources for maximum impact.

Belonging Matters Benefits - Government Impact


You Can Use the Belonging Matters Approach To...

Foster a sense of belonging

Facilitate intercultural cohesion and reconciliation

Influence evidence-based planning

Advance community collaboration and engagement

Initiate meaningful and effective awareness & prevention campaigns

Create opportunities for target groups to take an active role in their community

Identify emerging trends and needs for service and program improvement and development

Build trust and recognition between target groups and community resources

Foster inter-agency collaboration

Support personal development within target groups (e.g. Elders)

Increase self-awareness, confidence and energy

Support leadership development

Increase awareness, confidence, self-esteem and prevention rates on a variety of topics (e.g. Elder financial abuse)

Develop non-profit sector leadership by creating, mobilizing and supporting citizen-led, self-organizing projects

Help isolated, marginalized and / or culturally diverse individuals discover a sense of belonging within their groups as well as in the wider community

Improve cross-cultural understanding and relationships

How Belonging Matters is Creating Sustainable and Lasting Change

...more aware of the subtle relationships that were constantly being built amongst people...

The Belonging Matters framework helped me open my eyes more to experiences that were happening around me that I hadn’t realized yet. It opened my eyes to my physical community and made me more aware of the subtle relationships that were constantly being built amongst people – whether it was kind words at a grocery store, saying hi to a neighbour, or shoveling someone else’s sidewalk.

As one gains an understanding of what ‘belonging’ means (because how often do we really stop and think to ourselves about it otherwise?), it generates a deeper thought process and understanding of how we fit into our families, communities and society—and sometimes how we don’t. It opens one’s mind to the possibility of actually attaining more belonging (if this is what someone wants).

Faith Magwood Former chair of Aboriginal Neighbours and retired social worker

...she gives students the encouragement they need to “hang out” in the scary spaces between the paradigms…

Jessie Sutherland’s approach dissolves outdated paradigms regarding human conflict and misunderstanding. She offers hope for the development of a new and more useful paradigm, and she gives students the encouragement they need to “hang out” in the scary spaces between the paradigms, while the old one dissolves and the new one develops.

It is an amazing and exhilarating journey.

Paula Jardine Artist in Residence at Mountain View Cemetery, Vancouver

Being in that room with those people was powerfully regenerative for me.

Being invited to participate in the gathering to launch the Finding Home Initiative [now known as the Belonging Matters framework for social change] felt like a great honour. It was inspiring to see how ritual and ceremony grounded the proceedings; the most memorable and affecting were the cedar brushing (such a gift) and the creation story of the universe.

The first speaker, Chief Robert Joseph, shared an intimate story of how residential school affected him and how he healed. It was the first time I really took in the enormity of the damage done by residential schools and colonization. It changed the way I see our country and caused me to review everything I’ve ever been taught. Many thought-provoking comments and beautiful words from that gathering have stayed with me, but, above all, I felt the possibilities of creating good relations with each other to go forward in a good way. Being in that room with those people was powerfully regenerative for me.

Using Belonging Matters to Address Homelessness and the Overdose Crisis

"What does home mean to me?"

This question can connect people to their stories, their values, as well as to what and who matters most to them. The awareness of what home means can provide the compass needed for the tenacity it takes to build a new sense of home and belonging.

This significant question is one of the nuggets shared in our Belonging Matters Foundations training. One of our training participants, Sarah Common, Hives for Humanity Co-founder and Executive Director, has been using this question to address homelessness and the overdose crisis in the Downtown Eastside (in Vancouver, BC) through billboards, conversations and panel discussions.    

In the video, you’ll learn more about Sarah’s initiative through Hives For Humanity and their collaborating partners with What Does Home Mean To You and the difference it is making in the Downtown Eastside.

Sarah Common

Billboard - What Does Home Mean To You

Where to Start

LIVE Zoom Webinar

Build Belonging From the Inside Out

(on summer break) Returns fall 2024

Build Belonging From the Inside Out - Online Gathering - VideoScreen