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Since our founding in 2012 we've believed that research shouldn't be conducted merely for the sake of research. An ancient proverb reminds us, "To know and not to do is not to know." In that spirit our commitment has been for our research center to serve as a hub for civically engaged people from all backgrounds and sectors to use our resources to help make belonging a reality in their communities. In past years we've tried to highlight some examples of where we believed we were having an impact by citing examples from news stories and data. But this year we issued a call to hear directly from you, the people who in some way were influenced by OBI to make a difference in big and small ways across the world. On this page, you'll hear some of those stories. And we will continually update it as more people submit stories. If you have an impact story you'd like to share with us, we'd love to hear it. Get in touch with us at belonging@berkeley.edu, and type "Impact Story" in the subject line.

1. Safety Through Connection

Safety Through Connection team at the Prevention Institute

"In 2022, the Safety Through Connection team at Prevention Institute led a design process with our Learning Community partners. After three years of building capacity for culturally-rooted strategies to promote safe communities and prevent domestic violence, two of which fell squarely during the height of the pandemic, it was time to reflect and evolve our collective work."

Read this story by Lisa Fujie Parks.

2. A City of Belonging

City of Rockford seal

"When I first heard john powell speak a couple of years ago about belonging, I knew we needed to bring him to Rockford, our town of about 150,000 people, located about 90 miles west of Chicago. Here, I serve as the executive director at the Northern Illinois Center for Nonprofit Excellence, which is a capacity building organization that provides training for nonprofits and provides facilitation skills for community initiatives."

Read this story by Pamela Clark Reidenbach.


3. Just Cities

Margaretta Lin speaking on stage

"The Othering & Belonging Institute has opened the doors for us as educators at UC Berkeley to name the structural root causes of injustices today, be it homelessness, displacement, climate change, transportation equity, and so on. I teach classes regarding racial justice, city planning, public policy and law at the Goldman School of Public Policy and the City Planning Department."

Read this story by Margaretta Lin.


4. Eviction Resolution

Mia Gover headshot

"In the summer of 2021, I attended OBI's virtual seminar, "The Roots of Structural Racism: Residential Segregation in the US," as part of my preparation to begin receiving clients in my role as an eviction resolution specialist for a pilot program in Whatcom County, Washington."

Read this Story by Mia Gover.


5. Healing Through Art

People walking across the Oklahoma City Bridge

"I discovered the Othering & Belonging Institute in 2021, when I first began crafting plans for SPARK!’s pilot in Oklahoma City. A late night rabbit hole led me to Evan Bissell’s excellent article, 'Frames for Life, Liberation, and Belonging,' which not only deepened my resolve, but also expanded my own frame of possibility."

Read this story by Nicole Poole.


6. Diversity and Fair Housing

Farrah headshot
Farrah Wilder, Vice President and Chief DEI Officer at the California Association of Realtors

"Whether for educating our members about fair housing history, offering important background information to our Board of Directors, explaining diversity concepts, or helping our members understand current housing disparities - the Othering & Belonging Institute’s resources have proven invaluable. Last year (2022) Stephen Menendian gave an incredible and timely presentation to a packed room of our Board and annual conference attendees about REALTOR® fair housing history. What I love about O&B is that their staff, tools, presentations and web resources offer some of the most comprehensive yet accessible information about diversity and fair housing that I’ve been able to find.​​​​"


7. International Cities of Peace

Danielle Henson headshot

"As a Spiritual Director, collaborator and a pro bono Facilitator for International Cities of Peace (ICP), I am using my listening skills to hear beyond what is said, and supporting a virtual sense of belonging in private sessions and for global community-building. It is important in Spiritual Direction to be present and informed to create a sense of comfort and belonging, OBI helps me build the skills to sit with anyone, and know when my style is not the most effective for an individual's unique journey."

Read this story by Danielle Henson.


8. Inclusionary Zoning

Lori Droste headshot
Lori Droste, former Vice Mayor of Berkeley

"The Othering & Belonging Institute's work has served as a foundation for new evidence-based approaches that end unfair zoning practices and instead create opportunity for people at all income levels. It can be hard to spot what's wrong with the status quo. For too long, we failed to recognize how single family zoning excluded people from communities with good schools and jobs. The Institute's groundbreaking research has illuminated the dark side of urban planning practices that we took for granted and continues to light a path toward more equitable and inclusive cities."​​​​​


9. Spark of Motivation

Elise Balderrama headshot

"Employees in the IT Department at the City of Minneapolis where I work are experiencing many emotions as a result of tragic killings, including the recent attack at Club Q. We are horrified. We are distraught. We are disheartened. We are angry.

Your belonging statement brought solace to our team. More and more I hear people talk about belonging at work."

Read this story by Elise Balderrama.


10. Interdisciplinarity Works

Kendall square
Kendall Stephenson, 2021 OBI Summer Fellow

"There are few opportunities, even within academia, where one gets to truly be doing interdisciplinary work. My experience as a Summer Fellow at OBI was one such experience, and I look back with much gratitude for being given the opportunity to learn and think with others from a wide variety of backgrounds. There were poets, historians, environmental scientists, playwrights, urban planners, computer scientists, and ethicists - all under one roof. It has been difficult for me to find myself in anything close to a space quite like OBI, but I seek to bring that experience into my own spaces going forward. If nothing else, OBI taught me that interdisciplinarity DOES work, it IS possible, and it makes for more honest research."


11. Towards Inclusive Our-Stories

Rasheed headshot
Rasheed Shabazz, 2014 OBI Summer Fellow

"The Institute’s work on belonging has been critical in my public history work. In my hometown of Alameda, CA, I led efforts to rename a school and park honoring white supremacists. These campaigns opened up opportunities to not only engage communities about public space and local history, but created space for more inclusive curricula, land acknowledgments, and more. Now as a board member of our local history museum, I will continue to use belonging as I attempt to expand the circle of narratives beyond just the whiteness of Victorian era history towards inclusive our-stories."


12. Seeding Ideas

David Hsu headshot
David Hsu, Director, Building Cultures of Belonging, Omidyar Network

“Whenever I speak with folks focused on belonging, it’s striking how many will trace their interest to john powell or the Othering & Belonging Institute. They credit OBI with seeding the ideas for their work. That's certainly true of Omidyar Network and our newest area of work, Building Cultures of Belonging, which focuses on helping our increasingly diverse society to turn toward one another rather than against each other.

OBI was an early influence on us. Today we see them as a critical element of a global network of innovators working to build belonging in many contexts — classrooms, corporations, local communities, faith traditions, the arts, government, and beyond. 

The United States is just one of many societies grappling with rapid demographic shifts, economic swings, and disruptive technologies — all of which make questions about "who belongs" so much more urgent. In this context, it will take entire ecosystems working together to expand equality, connection, and respect. We're inspired to be doing this work alongside OBI and so many others.”      


13. From Blaming to Belonging

Cheryl headshot

"My husband and I recently bought a small condo in southern California where we have family. When we moved in we decided to attend a board meeting. ... From the first meeting, I was shocked by the othering language that was being used by the board members (who are all owners) to refer to people who are renting units. ... The whole space needed transformation, and I'm happy to say that in the last 3-4 months since I've been on the board, the message of belonging has begun to resonate. We've gone from a 0 to a 7. The language of othering is mostly a thing of the past. What occurred is a really nice opening for transformation to occur. We still have progress to make, but now there's at least awareness and willingness to move forward with a sense of belonging for all community members."

Read this story by Cheryl Domenichelli.


14. Puerto Rico's Energy Insurrection

Arturo and his father holding the Casa Pueblo flag

"A couple years ago we worked closely with Eli Moore (program director at OBI) on a participatory research project here in Puerto Rico where I live. As head of Casa Pueblo, my work is focused on addressing the issue of energy insecurity in our communities. Some of you may know that Puerto Rico has been suffering from a centralized, fossil fuel dependent energy production system that fails on a regular basis, and is especially vulnerable during hurricanes. This was most serious during Hurricane Irma and Maria in 2017, and more recently with Fiona last year."

Read this story by Arturo Massol-Deya.


15. Making Democracy Better

Wendy Willis headshot

"When we first dreamed up Oregon’s Kitchen Table thirteen years ago, I was part of a rag-tag group of community leaders that believed that Oregon could be better at responding to the needs and preferences of all Oregonians. We believed that Oregon could be a better democracy. ... Not long after we opened our doors, we discovered the concept of targeted universalism, and we have never turned back. Though the concept was introduced as a way to frame policy proposals, we eagerly responded to its principles and adapted it to enhance and enrich community engagement."

Read this story by Wendy Willis.