Creating a Sense of Belonging with Skot Welch

Creating a Sense of Belonging with Skot Welch 1

We talked with Skot Welch (LGR ’93) Founder and President of DEI Firm, Global Bridgebuilders, about his company’s Belonging Index.

Q: What is the difference between Welcoming and Belonging?

A: The biggest difference is that welcoming can happen through inanimate object, like, a welcome sign. Welcome to Grand Rapids. Welcome to the Chamber. But belonging adds a human component. It takes someone that would come alongside another individual. Say, “Let’s get connected. What do you need? Let me help you.”

Q: How do LGR and the Belonging Index work together?

When we had the opportunity to work with LGR at the Chamber, it was a good opportunity to see how this belonging data fares out in our community with a group of vibrant, working professionals.

It’s based upon a survey, that then gives us a metric read on how people feel about belonging.

We shared this index with other communities nationally: Austin, Texas, New Mexico, and Ann Arbor. We are asking them how their residents feel. Because oftentimes, you’ve got people that will say “This is a great city. That’s a great city.” My qualifying question is: a great city for who? And even though these cities are highly ranked in other areas. Belonging is not just about philanthropy. It’s not just about having a beautiful city. Aesthetically, belonging is the mortar that holds the bricks together.

Q: How would you define belonging on a community level?

A: Belonging is what happens when you leave work. It is how you are connected with friends that you’re able to meet and opportunities you make for yourself while being authentic. You know, be yourself and contribute to the area. That is what we’ve been learning so far.

Q: What are some takeaways you have found while doing this research?

A: There are some definitive action steps, you know. At the at the end of the day, it just involves connecting with other human beings, on a meaningful level.

And if you are in rooms where everybody is just like you. Well, that room is not as healthy as it should be. That doesn’t make for community. It does make us, perhaps more comfortable, but it doesn’t make for a stronger community because we are better together.

It’s about us owning it, and saying, you know what? What is my part that I can play to make sure that people can eliminate, or at least minimize their feelings of otherness?

The whole idea belonging is that we can relate to it as human beings. And if you see somebody looking like a fish out of water, what can you do? You do not need a big title. It is not about any other thing other than being human. And so for me, it just made me more aware of the fact that, I’ve got to do my job in terms of, one citizen trying to help try to offset the feeling of otherness when I see other people experiencing it.

Q: Thank you very much Skot. Is there anything else you would like to let everyone know?

A: I think the biggest thing is that people need to stop waiting for someone else to do it. We need to own it individually. You know, life is a full contact sport, right? It happens in real time. It’s sloppy. It’s messy. Don’t dip your toe into the pool. Just dive in for human beings. Right? We have 7.5 billion different interpretations on what it is to be human, so just connect with people on the level that you can.


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