When people feel respected, appreciated and included, they are happier, healthier and better contributors to communities of every type, according to Needham’s Nichole Argo, developer of a social survey called “The Belonging Barometer.” So it’s no wonder that people seeking to create a stronger, more inclusive Needham have created a number of complementary organizations — the town’s Human Rights Committee, the Needham Diversity Initiative (NDI), the Needham Resilience Network (NRN), interfaith groups, and others — to build a positive town culture. They are currently working together on the annual Needham Diversity Summit, “Bridging and Belonging: Local Stories and a Roadmap to Change,” scheduled for Nov. 5 at Pollard Middle School.
The event is especially timely, as people’s cultural affinities help define how they react to everything from global conflict to dealing with schoolyard racism. Argo, who has a Ph.D. in political psychology and is a board member of both the NDI and the NRN, will help facilitate the summit.
“Bridging is when we turn outward and work with others to solve problems,” Argo said. “That, in turn, brings an inward sense of belonging. They go together.”
The event will include an overview of the Barometer and the value of belonging, personal stories and interaction from a panel of town residents, and group activities that will invite attendees to share their own experiences of belonging and community in Needham.
More events will follow. The Human Rights Committee is convening a group to organize open discussions regarding a range of human-rights issues with related Needham entities. In a parallel effort, the HRC invited leaders from the school board and administration to their September public meeting for a presentation on how school behavior policies get created and implemented.
Argo said the larger idea of belonging helps people make sense of diversity issues. “People who do not support diversity have cast it as a zero-sum game,” she said. “If you add here, you subtract there.” Belonging is universally inclusive, she said—a goal for the summit and for the larger community.
Register for the Needham Diversity Summit at Pollard Middle School, Nov. 5 from 1-5 p.m.