We are so very pleased to be sharing this special issue of Alternatives Journal with you. It was developed in collaboration with The Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation (The KWCF), and our shared journey of discovery began with a goal of exploring the concept of “belonging” in its myriad of meanings.

The KWCF fosters programs and solutions that help individuals and groups to enhance their sense of belonging within Southern Ontario’s fast growing Waterloo Region. 

As we developed this issue, we wondered if the community-building stories about enhancing a sense of belonging would be transferable to the Canadian environmental community. Nearly a half century young, our movement is only beginning to understand the importance of collective impacts and unified voices. 

We need to build stronger bonds within and between environmental groups across Canada – and we need to build more bridges to average Canadians. A strong, healthy and vibrant environmental community will welcome everyone already involved in our collective work and seek to help those finding their place as newcomers to our cause. Thankfully, there are a lot of lessons to be learned and insights to be gleaned from the real-world work of physical place-setting in Waterloo Region.

In this issue, you’ll read about long-time nonprofit organizations evolving their operational models to address changing community needs – and, in doing so, finding new and unexplored opportunities. You’ll read about the collective efforts by key civic stakeholders to foster deeper and more meaningful collaborations and cross-disciplinary approaches to address social challenges manifesting, in different ways, in all of their individual practice areas. You’ll learn how (and why) a community centre mindfully repositions itself to become a true centre of community belonging by repurposing existing services and pioneering new innovative programs to serve a vital need.

There are stories of businesses doing good, and of do-gooders doing business. There are stories about newcomers finding their way, and about those more established citizens seeking to pay it forward by helping to smooth that journey to acceptance and inclusion for others. 

While many of the stories are local in nature, and in geography, to Waterloo Region, the lessons are universal to everyone working to build stronger, more vibrant and more cohesive and collaborative communities, be they place-based locales or cause-related movements.

I hope you enjoy this issue. It has been a labour of love, developed with the much-appreciated support and encouragement of The Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation. There is something magical in the air (or water) in Waterloo Region. There’s a spirit of barn-raising new infrastructure, bootstrapping new organizational developments, and beta-testing new ideas to address existing challenges and to develop future opportunities. 

We are proud to share with you these stories and insights from the physical community in which A\J lives (and works). We hope this issue of Belonging inspires your community building initiatives. And we invite you to share your own belonging and community building stories with us.

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