Bringing the Vital Conditions to Life: Belonging & Civic Muscle

Part of our Vital Conditions series that’s designed to help you bridge the connection from understanding each Vital Condition to identifying ways to improve it in your community and where to start. 

Inspired by our organization’s name -- IP3 -- we’ve structured this series to showcase People successfully improving Conditions at the local level, Places who have built up momentum worth modeling, and inspiring Possibilities to drive your work.

What is Belonging and Civic Muscle?

Made up of connections to family, culture, social groups, and community, this vital condition is the foundation for all other vital conditions that give rise to a thriving, healthy life. Along with having a sense of pride in community and strong social networks, civic participation from diverse community members in problem solving activities, and taking collective responsibility for each other is necessary to build strong communities and promote positive change. Learn more

Why is this considered a vital condition for health?

More than ever, we are starting to understand the real value of personal relationships and social support as a necessary component to well-being. Connection to community, having a role in community decision-making y, and contributing to a shared future are associated with higher levels of trust, cooperation, and social capital. This feeling of belonging contributes to positive mental and physical health, which carries forward to overall community resilience. Learn more

Photo of people releasing paper lanterns into the sky at night
Visualizing Well-Being: Belonging and Civic Muscle
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Commons

Inspirational People

We’ve all heard the bleak narrative when it comes to health and poverty on Native-American land reservations, but the Oglala Sioux of Thunder Valley, South Dakota are rewriting their story - and it’s full of pride and optimism.

Instead of dwelling on the negative, the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation (CDC) has focused on a positive future by starting with a simple question: “What do you want your community to look like?” 

The community conversations this effort has sparked have changed the way members of the tribal community think, moving from roadblocks to possibilities. From the tribe’s website: “A story that always sticks out from our community engagement sessions is of one elder woman who said: “That was the best meeting I have been to in my whole life”. When asked why, she responded, “No one ever asked me what I wanted for my community, or for my life.”

The community now has a renewed sense of a shared destiny, which stemmed from building pride from the ground up. This has guided their community planning, implementation, and empowerment, and in turn, has enabled them  to move towards realizing full potential. 

Today the Thunder Valley CDC is widely recognized for their theory of change and initiatives, which have led to increased job training and housing options, improved food access, youth leadership programs, and a sense of cultural pride that will carry them forward to a bright, resilient future.  

Screen shot of the Thunder Valley CDC homepage
Thunder Valley CDC
Resource - Website/webpage
Photo of an adult and a child gardening together
WIN Pacesetter Story: Thunder Valley CDC
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Commons
Staff Pick!
Native Land
Native Land
Tool - Data/mapping Tool
Brought to you by Native Land Digital
Thumbnail of video
Building a Resilient Community
Story - Video
Published on 07/06/2017

Inspirational Place

When the physical places where community members used to meet--the local diner, the Lions Club, at church --close down because the economy cannot support them anymore, it's hard to keep the threads of community from unraveling. Allen County, Kansas recognized that threat and founded Thrive Allen County to address it head on.

As a rural county with several small towns within it, the challenge of how to get people to gather and  engage was the first hurdle. Thrive Allen County made the intentional decision to visit each community in their own space, residents felt connected and comfortable enough to share their visions for the future. Once the people felt like their needs and wants were actually heard, great things started happening. 

The formation of Allen County Tomorrow (ACT) Together was founded to set priorities and create action plans to move the community forward. Using positive, targeted issue framing, the plans help all residents see what is possible in Allen County.

Kansas Health Matters
Kansas Health Matters
Brought to you by Kansas Health Matters
Screen shot of the Thrive Allen County homepage
Thrive Allen County
Resource - Website/webpage
Brought to you by Thrive
Photo of store fronts on a city street
WIN Pacesetter Story: Allen County, Kansas
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Commons
Cover page of What Works? Strategies to Improve Rural Health
What Works? Strategies to Improve Rural Health
Resource - Report
Brought to you by University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute

Possibilities That Inspire You

The Well Being Trust has chosen to highlight these solutions as ones that are not only possible, but have a real chance to improve lives. 

There are many opportunities to improve conditions for Humane Housing in communities. Some of the most significant opportunities pertain to:

  • Invest in the “civic infrastructure” of our communities, including the institutional capacity to support community organizing, resident participation, and collaboration across sectors.

  • Proliferate best practices around community-engaged decision-making, participatory budgeting and governance, and open government, and explore how innovations in civic technology can facilitate broader and more equitable engagement.

  • Adopt whole system thinking, collaborative approaches, and long-term investments for “re-connecting” youth, and create community infrastructure around youth well-being, with particular attention to actions addressing inequitable conditions and outcomes.

We offer the following collection of community success stories, resources, and tools to help you explore current conditions, look for possibilities, build community, and take action.

Cover of Communities WIN
Communities WIN: A Community Guide for Dialogue and Action
Tool - Toolkit/toolbox
Brought to you by Community Commons
Published on 01/22/2020
Hear our voice sign carried at march. Photo Stacy Wegley. An orange banner spanning the top of the images reads
Civic Engagement
Topic - Quality Of Life

 Related Topics

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Community Engagement

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Belonging and Civic Muscle

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Mental and Behavioral Health