The Othering & Belonging Institute at the University of California, Berkeley is a vibrant hub for researchers, community leaders, policymakers, and communicators, and other committed stakeholders. The Institute advances research, policy, and ideas that examine and remediate the processes of exclusion, marginalization, and structural inequality—what we call othering—in order to build a world based on inclusion, fairness, justice, and care for the earth—what we call belonging.
We have been doing this work since 2012—first, under the name of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society and now under our new identity as the Othering & Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley.
The Institute grew out of a core group of engaged scholars at UC Berkeley who had organized around thematic topics related to marginalization and inclusion, including disability studies, public health, race and education, LGBTQ citizenship, religious pluralism, among others. Out of these clusters a formal center was born in 2012, made possible by a foundational grant from the Walter & Evelyn Haas, Jr. Fund. Support from the Haas Jr. Fund, and other members of the Haas family, endowed seven faculty chairs to lead each of the research clusters, and brought john a. powell to UC Berkeley to lead the Institute as its inaugural director, where he holds the eighth endowed chair.
The Institute was and remains unique in academic institutions for the breadth of its vision and the scale of its scholarship and structure.
From the beginning our understanding of marginalization and exclusion was informed by a wider view of how groups are situated in society based upon race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and religion, and how policy, legal, and cultural interventions can remediate these cleavages and facilitate more equitable outcomes. We have consistently insisted on recognizing the centrality of how structures and systems work to create or exacerbate othering or belonging. This orientation has given us key insights into dynamics such as structural racism, mass incarceration, the crisis of affordable housing, corporate misalignment, public finance, among other broad issues. Throughout our work, we push for reforms that can unlock transformative change, prioritizing those who are the most targeted or marginalized, while doing work that benefits all.
This approach is the framework we call “othering and belonging” where belonging describes values and practices where no person is left out of our circle of concern. Belonging means more than having just access, it means having a meaningful voice and the opportunity to participate in the design of political, social, and cultural structures. Belonging includes the right to both contribute and make demands upon society and political institutions.
To formalize our commitment to this central framework, we renamed ourselves the Othering and Belonging Institute in 2019. As the introduction of our new name is a pivotal moment in our history, we took the opportunity to look back in order to evaluate our first seven years of work. The result is this Impact Report.
Portrayed in this report are illustrative examples of our work–not meant to be comprehensive, but instead to showcase projects that illustrate the way we approach our work as well as the breadth of our focus areas. The diversity represented here underscores the way the Institute’s approach has always been multidisciplinary and cross-sectoral—rejecting the push to stay in a singular lane, we do our work in a way that aims to break down silos.
We have divided this report into the following five categories that reflect our progress towards our vision over our first seven years:
The first impact area we look at is our work in producing Responsive Research. Here we explore where our research has been directly responsive to community needs, diagnostic in nature, and has illustrated the scope or nature of a problem in order to build public will for change.
The second area of impact provides examples of how we’ve been able to Shift Public Discourse, raising public awareness and increasing the usage of key frames in scholarship, media, and the broader discourse around social change.
In our third impact area, we look at Policy and Practice as a specific area of work where we have brought our work to bear on vital policy and legal issues, advanced policy reform, and worked with policymakers to implement reforms.
In our fourth section on Campus Climate, we showcase our impact on the UC Berkeley campus to build a more diverse and equitable faculty and student body, and how our Institute affiliated faculty have made a significant impact on influential and cutting-edge policy issues.
And in our last category of impact we look at the larger work of Building an Ecosystem of Belonging, which captures how our work has helped to influence social movements, support equity infrastructure, train the next generation of leaders, and created innovative and transformational spaces for public engagement and dialogue.
Our work has always been rooted in four guiding principles, which we use as guideposts to orient our work.
Advancing multidisciplinary research, analysis, policy, and strategic narrative. The Institute’s research examines the structural and cultural impediments to belonging and the othering processes that block the benefits derived from an equitable society. We address complex and intertwined issues holistically, cultivating research contributions and collaboration across fields. Our work is centered on the needs of people in order to expose the way othering creates marginality and deprives people of their full belonging.
Building relationships among diverse groups and across disciplines. The Institute aligns our research efforts with the needs of community organizers, policymakers, and other stakeholders. Community-centered collaborations help inform our research while our scholarship helps community partners and policymakers with strategies and policy, increasing our mutual effectiveness at many levels. This type of relationship building moves beyond just coalitions toward deeper synergy, and is strengthened by time and interaction that ultimately yields a greater capacity to effect change.
Employing strategic communications to illuminate research and impact policy. To be most successful, we must engage the conscious mind and the unconscious mind, which is less empirical, less fact-driven, highly social, and more animated by stories, values, and metaphors. Our communications and cultural strategy work goes beyond mere messaging to engage in a battle of big ideas, to take command of how a debate, such as the entire concept of public space or citizenship or free speech, is framed in public discourse, in order to construct and employ new narratives that speak to people at multiple levels.
Making a difference. Above all, we seek to make a difference. Our ultimate goal is to reduce inequality and help bring about a more just and equitable society with true belonging. We develop research and work with marginalized communities to advance policy and interventions that can bring about true belonging.
Institute staff and faculty pictured, from left: Stephen Menendian, Karen Nakamura, Mahasin Mujahid, Taeku Lee, and Olivia Araiza