One of my passions is strengthening the alignment between how we address complex social problems and contribute to climate action and the sustainability of our planet. What I have found is the more opportunities we create to surface and engage worldviews, the more aligned our approaches become to effectively address our priority social challenges while simultaneously contributing to local climate action.

How 3 community dialogues led to climate action

Here are some examples of how 3 different Belonging Matters Conversations projects accomplished goals for both addressing their priority social challenges and contributing to local climate action.

#1: Newcomer integration conversations lead to celebrating our rivers

When a group of Iranian seniors recently arrived in Canada and shared their experiences of home and what it means to them, they talked about the love they shared for the Karoun River in Iran. As we went deeper into the conversation, an idea was generated to host a River Party by a local river.

Once the group connected to how important rivers are to their sense of home, they generated many ideas on how to contribute to their new communities. They developed ideas like hosting a local “BC Rivers Day” event, connecting with local Indigenous communities over the relationship and meaning of rivers, intergenerational environmental projects related to local rivers, community dialogues and much more.

In the process of developing shared meaning about rivers, they created new pathways for integrating into Canada and contributing their talents to taking care of their local rivers and communities.

Iranian Seniors - Karoun River Song

“The Karoun River in southern Iran is a powerful symbol of home for us. It is beautiful & reminds us to love the whole world.” - Conversation Participants

Click HERE to see the posters (available in English and Farsi) highlighting the insights that emerged.

The Iranian Seniors River Party was a celebrating success event following the Belonging Matters Conversations series on Newcomer Integration at the North Shore Neighbourhood House (NSNH) and John Braithwaite Community Centre (JBCC).

#2: Welcoming and inclusive spaces in sports lead to land-based practices

When Oliver Parks and Recreation began their quest to implement Canada’s TRC Calls to Action by hosting Belonging Matters Conversations with Osoyoos Indian Band members, what they discovered, amongst other things, was the need for more culturally relevant activities such as canoe journeys; honouring Indigenous hockey players; and hikes with elders to learn about the land, plants and berries.

In building quality relationships and culturally relevant programing, they laid the foundation for addressing community challenges like racist graffiti on petroglyphs, mobilizing community members in response to the discovery of unmarked graves, and generating new ways of celebrating Canada Day that showcases their joint histories.

#3: Dignity in the overdose crisis lead to community garden and neighbourhood clean up

When people with lived experience shared their experiences of stigma in their neighbourhood, this led to the group generating tips and strategies on how to build dignity and belonging.

Their top priority was to lead the way in beautifying their neighbourhood through gardening and regular neighbourhood clean ups. In this way, they built dignity within themselves, with each other and with their neighbourhood while taking care of the land.

Inspiring climate action through shared values

Over the past 15 years of designing and facilitating Belonging Matters Conversations and community dialogues to address diverse social problems, I have found the most effective way to surface and engage diverse worldviews is through the metaphor of home and an exploration of experiences of feeling or not feeling a sense of belonging.

I believe in our increasingly polarized world, our common yearning for home is a potentially unifying force. And when we use a belonging lens, what emerges are shared values, providing us the rudder and moral compass to build a messy yet vibrant shared home—where we tend to the belonging of ourselves, others and to the environment.

Share your thoughts:

I’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts on aligning your efforts to simultaneously addressing social problems and climate action. Leave a comment below or join our next complimentary leaders gathering.
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About the Author

Jessie Sutherland

An international speaker, trainer, and consultant, Jessie Sutherland works with organizations and communities to engage diversity, build belonging and ignite intercultural collaboration. Her approach creates sustainable community change that effectively addresses a wide range of complex social problems.

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