I am overflowing with gratitude to the wonderful friends, family and colleagues who came to the 2023 BC Achievement Community Award ceremony in May and all those who tuned in virtually and took the time to message as they were watching.  

I was surprised at the emotion that burbled up in me as we were all officially piped in, and I looked out to a sea of faces and caught the eyes of my beloveds beaming back to me: family, friends and colleagues I have known for over 20 years and learned so much from in countless ways.

In reflecting upon my experience, I realize there is much to share about how celebrations build a culture of belonging and strengthen communities.

As any changemaker knows, a key ingredient for sustaining engagement in any initiative is the ongoing practice of recognizing and celebrating people and successes along the way. After attending the BC Achievement Community Award ceremony, I have to say the organizers nailed it! 

2023 BC Achievement Community Award Highlights

I’d love to share 5 practices from the experience that particularly stood out for me.

#1: Formal recognition with a personal touch

Each recipient received a personal call and invitation to the award ceremony from the BC Achievement Foundation’s top leadership, Cathryn Wilson and Kristin McDougall. We also received a letter of congratulations from BC premier, David Eby, that was personal and specific on how each of us contributes to making BC more resilient and inclusive.

#2: The grand entrance 

Throughout the BC Achievement Community Award ceremony, we experienced thoughtful and meaningful symbols and gifts that wove in Indigenous and non-Indigenous symbols, ways of welcoming and protocols.

I was surprised at the emotion I felt as we were “piped in” with bagpipes and the thoughtful gifts - a framed award, medal and lapel pin.

Watch the accompanying video to see how we were piped in.

#3: Top leadership has a key role

Her Honour, Jane Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, gave the opening remarks, setting the tone for the ceremony and personally presenting every award to each recipient. 

Watch Her Honour in action below.

#4: Masterful MC

Master of Ceremonies, Yuri Fulmer, coached the award recipients on how to take it all in and encouraged the rest of the community to celebrate the recipients with gusto!

#5: Nurturing community

The BC Achievement Foundation nurtured a sense of community through hosting a small group Zoom call ahead of time, providing a place to mingle with other recipients on the day of the award ceremony, and by creating opportunities for our guests to be part of it all. They also hosted an incredible buffet. Their team continues to connect with us as recipients.
2023 BC Achievement Community Award - group photo

Left to right: Agustin Rusekampunzi, Stella Cockett, Justine Sutherland, Monica Walters-Field, Jessie Sutherland, Yvonne Rigsby Jones and Janice Mason

Belonging & Celebration

By the end of the BC Achievement Community Award experience, I felt fully celebrated and my sense of belonging to this place deepened.
What the BC Achievement Community Award Can Teach Us - Sense of Belonging and Community
Following the event, more surprises and recognition awaited me: 
I feel very blessed to experience such a full and thoughtful celebration and recognition. Since then, I have been much more intentional about celebrating the talents and contributions of the people around me. Afterall, I now have lived experience of how celebrations have the potential to build belonging and strengthen people and communities.

For those who want to see the full ceremony, visit the 2023 BC Achievement Foundation Community Award livestream page.
{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}


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.

Don't know where to start?