IN A WORLD facing many social challenges, it is hard to sort through all the "need" and find the right place to start inciting change. It is understood that poverty, housing and food insecurity (to name but a few) are very real challenges.
We see them every day when we go to work, drive to hockey practice or take a walk in the park. The question is: how can we tackle complex issues like these if people are disconnected, isolated and indifferent?
How can we improve the quality of life for individuals in need when we do not address the underlying problems that led to them being marginalized in the first place? In other words, you can't just supply food and housing without working with individuals to realize their value and importance to the community. People need to feel like they "belong" before they are driven to Improve their own quality of life or that of others.
But what does "belonging" mean? And where and how does a community start to improve its residents' sense of belonging?
These complex questions have been at the heart of the work of The Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation (The KWCF) since 2013. As an organization focused on improving the quality of life in the Ontario cities of Kitchener and Waterloo plus surrounding areas, The KWCF's work is often framed as "Building," "Investing" and "Leading." The foundation builds not only assets, but also knowledge of the community and relationships that are integral to getting work done. The KWCF invests in community for the betterment of community by leveraging their assets (dollars, relationships and knowledge), and they lead, not from the rooftops or the front of the line, but quietly from the back, connecting and collaborating to make change happen.
Underlying this work is Waterloo Region's Vital Signs[R]. The Vital Signs report is an annual community checkup through which The KWCF measures the vitality of Waterloo Region. It identifies significant trends in key areas critical to residents' quality of life. The report informs all levels of The KWCF's ventures - from the board's work in setting strategy, to helping define and focus grant initiatives. It is also an instrument that the community can use for improving life in Waterloo Region. In 2013, The KWCF began its "belonging" journey because of what The Vital Signs revealed.
Statistics Canada has reported that there has been a declining trend among those feeling a "somewhat strong" or "very strong" sense of community...