In the Huddle: A Spotlight on the Creating Belonging Series
“Belonging”, “inclusion”, “equity”, “opportunity” – you won’t have to spend much time around a Soccer Without Borders (SWB) program before you’ll begin hearing words like these. From the soccer pitch to the sidelines, the Zoom meeting room to the classroom, our values are the driving force behind everything we do as an organization.
It would be far too easy for these ideas to be reduced to mere corporate buzzwords or terminology that rings hollow. Therefore, we work hard to find ways to ensure that we remain fully authentic as an organization, not only for the participants and communities we serve, but also for our staff, volunteers, stakeholders, partners, and more.
But what are our values exactly? What do they mean? How do we embody them in our day-to-day work? How do we encourage one another while still holding each other accountable? How do we approach the most sensitive conversations and topics? What do we do when we are faced with impossibly tough decisions and difficult situations? How do we best embody our values within the communities we serve?
These were some of the questions that led to the formation of the Creating Belonging Series, an SWB tradition which, although relatively young, has quickly become an important aspect of our work and culture. The Creating Belonging Series originated back in 2020, the result of an unprecedented year that reminded us why belonging is fundamental and why racial justice must stay at the forefront of our collective hearts, minds, and actions.
To call the Creating Belonging Series another staff meeting would be a huge understatement. Instead, the 8-part series brings together diverse groups of SWB staff members into a virtual safe space where they are free to ask the tough questions (both of themselves and of their teammates). Our staff come from different walks of life, from different cultural backgrounds, and from different regions around the United States and the world. At a typical Creating Belonging Series session, you may find those who are seasoned professionals and those who are brand new to the workforce, those who work directly with our youth participants and those who are in support roles behind the scenes. More than that, our staff are proud representatives of different nationalities, ethnicities, spiritual beliefs, sexual orientations, gender identities, and more. Despite our differences and unique experiences, our staff stand united in a passion for the SWB mission and vision. And together, the Creating Belonging Series has proven to be a tool which has the power to enrich oneself, each other, and the communities we serve. The goals of the series can be summed up in the following ways:
To grow in comfort and fluency in discussing SWB themes of equity & inclusion
To build community and connection through meaningful conversations
To develop as a leaders and mentors through self-reflection and group conversation
To build an awareness of and sensitivity to the issues of equity & inclusion within SWB.
“At previous jobs I’ve had,” explains SWB’s new Director of Communications, Dustin Alarid, “it has often been difficult to connect with colleagues who are not only far away geographically, but who also have world views and life experiences far from my own.” He continued, “The Creating Belonging Series has been a highlight of my time with SWB thus far. As leaders on the pitch and in the youth development sector as a whole, these types of conversations are absolutely critical. The Creating Belonging Series is an example SWB’s commitment to ‘walk the walk’ at all levels of the organization”.
Looking for some ways to get involved?