This study aims to investigate the methods used by leaders from various sectors to cultivate a sense of belonging (SOB) in their communities. The purpose is to inform the approach that Imperial College and other HEIs should take to enhance the sense of belonging amongst the student community thereby improving retention, satisfaction, performance and mental wellbeing. This study seeks to shed light onto the phenomenon of formation of sense of belonging among communities including the factors involved (drivers and barriers to SOB that may include competition, excellence and selectivity) and strategies that might be employed to enhance SOB. So far the Military, Private, Sports and non-profit sectors have been studied through semi-structured interviews and documentary analysis of publicly available resources.

Preliminary results indicate the importance of mutually agreed expectation and value frameworks within which a community can operate and self-police. Whether or not these frameworks are explicit or implicit depends on the context but in all sectors studied the framework plays a key role in allowing members to feel empowered and have a sense of ownership in the community. Competition can be a powerful force for enhancing sense of belonging given the right conditions within which to operate, but can also dismantle sense of belonging in the absence of a positive framework. Members being able to see the part that they play in achieving the mission and purpose of the wider community was a key driver for sense of belonging across several of the sectors studied.

The results of this study are both theoretically insightful as well as of practical use in various settings within Higher Education. If you would like to discuss how you might enhance the sense of belonging in your area or in a community you’re a part of, please get in touch using the contact information below.

Contact Alejandro Luy