There are two prevailing stories about our world today.
One is an all too familiar story rooted in domination and exploitation and fueled by manipulating and manufacturing fear. This story reads as if we are living in a world where entire communities, and even the earth itself, are treated as the “other,” as though their well-being isn’t essential to all of our futures. This story is organized around a small “we” that is increasingly disconnected and isolated.
The other story is one of a larger “we.” It is an expansive story, rooted in compassion and respect, and motivated by the belief that we are all connected to each other and to our planet. This story does not ask us to sublimate those parts of our identities that give us meaning. This story offers all of us a place in co-creating the world we want to be part of.
Since our inception in 2012, our work has been guided by a belief in this second story. Formerly as the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society and now as the newly-named Othering and Belonging Institute, our work has been animated by an unwavering conviction in the foundational belonging of all people and care for the living planet—where belonging means we share the earth, we share our concerns with each other, we share our dreams, and we commit to care about, nurture, and even love each other in our similarities as well as differences.
This report is one chapter in our story. It is a look at our first seven years* as a formal center of scholarship, activism, and inquiry at UC Berkeley. It illustrates the deep, collaborative work we’ve been involved in—with scholars, community members, policymakers, government, artists, students, and with each other. When these areas are in alignment, this is where real change can happen.
john powell (standing) with Institute staff at the 2019 Othering & Belonging conference
By changing our name to the Othering & Belonging Institute, we aimed to more closely connect the identity as an organization to the work we’ve been doing. Our new name reflects our efforts and vision to build a society where the circle of human concern extends to each and every person and where we recognize and honor our interconnection with the earth.
While this report illustrates our efforts and accomplishments so far, it also suggests our aspirations for the future as well. Who we are and who we are becoming are among the most important questions that contribute to the dynamics we see in the world today, but within those questions also lie our best hope for the future. We have been doing the work of illuminating the possibilities of those questions and how understanding them will result in a world where our circle continues to expand.
The depth and scale of our work represented in this impact report is inseparable from the relationships and partnerships we have been part of since our inception and many years before.
I am humbled and honored to work with so many of you whose stories of commitment to a more fair and inclusive future, which are part of a shared story of our larger we, are reflected in these pages.
Yours in belonging,
john a. powell
Director, Othering and Belonging Institute
Professor of Law, African American, and Ethnic Studies
*This report encapsulates work we’ve done from our founding in 2012 to the end of 2019
From left: john powell with Jovan Scott Lewis, Hilary Hoynes, Ashara Ekundayo