On February 18th 2023, at Fairfield House in Bath, we launched our Year of Belonging.
We were very excited to launch our re-brand and, more importantly, our Year of Belonging.
There will be a lot more content about the Year of Belonging over the next few weeks and months, so for now, here is the transcript of the introductory talk given by Renée Jacobs.
So, why have I asked you all to join me today?
When I moved to Bath with my husband a little over 6 years ago, we knew it was the place we wanted to have our family: a beautiful city, with so much to offer in terms of history, culture, good food, and lots more. It was (and is) a City that we wanted to call home. And now we do.
But it’s funny, because “home” is an idea I have struggled with for most of my adult life. I haven’t ever really felt “at home” anywhere. It was while exploring this feeling that I came across the concept of “belonging” – and it’s an idea that has really changed me.
A person might feel that they belong with their friends, or family, or chosen family. They might feel a sense of belonging at work, or on their sports team. It can be found in concerts, classrooms and cafes. Or it might not.
Bath is a great city in so many ways, but it also has its challenges around poverty, accessibility and being able to give all of its residents that sense of belonging. I would love for Bath to be a city where everyone can belong and, I guess, you are all here because you would love that too!
And so, the idea of a Year of Belonging was born.
One year to try new things, experiment, plan and implement ways to cultivate belonging in Bath.
From the work I have been doing with B in Bath over the past few years, I know that organisations and institutions can be uncertain about what to do to improve inclusion and access. The aim of the Year of Belonging is to remove some of that uncertainty. To give permission (as if it is needed) to try something different, to make space, to make changes, and to measure the impact.
Throughout the year we would love to work with organisations who want to cultivate belonging. Perhaps you could host a pop-up somewhere different, put on a free bus or a free event. Perhaps you could actively and pro-actively try to engage with different people, and change your space so it is for them.
But we don’t just want to work with organisations, we want to work with individuals and groups of individuals to find out what belonging means to them, how things could be improved in this City, and to support and encourage their engagement with events that will be taking place.
At the end of the year, we will have a review activity so that we can look back on the year, see what worked and what didn’t, and share our findings.
We have come up with some themes for each month of the year, to help focus ideas (these will pop up on screen after I have finished talking), but we are not trying to be prescriptive.
We want your input. We need your input.
It feels like a lot. It looks like a lot. It is a lot. And so we need your help. We can’t make Bath a city where everyone belongs without including everyone, and that means you too. So I would really love it if you could think about how you might be able to be involved, and let me know!
Really, I don’t know what else I want to say. I am so excited and passionate about the change we can make in this City, and to the lives of the people who live in this City, if we can work together to overcome challenges. Its a big dream, but I don’t think it’s impossible – just not easy (at all).
We’re asking all of you what belonging means to you, so I should probably share what it means to me:
To me, belonging means safety. Belonging means security. Belonging means all of my attributes, my quirks, my strengths, my weaknesses, fit. Belonging understands that everyone is valuable, necessary, needed.
Belonging means that where I can’t, you can – and so together WE can. It means I use my energy to restore yours, and you use your energy to restore mine – and so together, we always have energy. It means that we live together in community, with each other (our fellow humans) and our planet. It means we give our gifts freely and receive the gifts of others with gratitude.
Belonging takes action. It takes thoughts and consideration. It takes work and it takes effort. But it is worth it.
Belonging doesn’t mean you and me. Belonging means we.