The first task I had as a new intern with Wello was to sort through the responses from the three open-ended questions that were part of their Well-Being Survey. One question they asked was “what one thing would improve well-being in your community?” There were obvious answers like new restaurant chains and better weather, but as I dug deeper I ran across some themes that surprised me.
- Neighbor to neighbor relationship
- Neighborhood watch programs
- More opportunities for connection with neighbors/ the community as a whole
- Deeper community connectedness and involvement across racial and cultural lines
- Find ways to make community events for diverse populations and neighborhoods in a way they feel welcome and included
- Continued conversations and actions around diversity and inclusiveness so that all residents see themselves reflected throughout the community
- More compassion for "others" in our community
- Less fear, more forward-thinking and openness
I kept finding responses about people wanting more, or deeper, relationships with their neighbors, and about creating a truly inclusive community. I was surprised at the number of people who felt this way, and yet, our community still struggles. Do we not know where to start? Are we not fully committed to the work involved with the outcomes we’re hoping for? At the same time, what types of diversity are the participants necessarily talking about? ie. ability, age, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, socioeconomic status and so on (for the purpose of this blog, I’ll focus on ethnicity).
Bringing back the previous quote I mentioned in blog one from Rachel Cargle - “unless the racism is addressed and eradicated in the places you are looking to make diverse you are simply bringing people of color into violent and unsafe spaces” - I just can’t help thinking about how our good intentions can have unanticipated consequences. When we think about creating an inclusive community, it has to be more than intentions (guilty), it has to be more than reading books and then sitting out when the real work needs to be done (guilty again). Most of all, we need to do real work on combating the prejudices that are prevalent in our community in order to make it truly accepting and welcoming for all people. And this is why it is an essential part of the work to achieve Wello’s vision that all people in Greater Green Bay have high levels of health and well-being.
So this is where the real work begins. I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and try to make the changes you want to see. Join me in knocking on your neighbor’s doors and introducing yourself or visiting a place you’ve never been with people who don’t look like you (in COVID safe ways)! If you already know your neighbors, maybe try to get to know them better. At a systems level, advocate for inclusive policies and practices within your neighborhood, city, village, or county so that the default is inclusion. I’m no expert but I’m committed, and so is Wello, to keep trying and doing our part in building a more inclusive community.