Enact a Policy on Belonging


Every day, people are denied the fullness of belonging on account of race, religion, gender, orientation, disability, immigration status, and other characteristics. Instead of true cultural citizenship—belonging without barrier, requiring no legal papers, no border walls—sanctuary is denied, travel is limited, people are expected to accept disrespect for their heritages, their contributions to history and community life, and their right to culture.

Mostly, communities fight for full belonging on dozens of different fronts: proposing or opposing legislation, speaking out against restrictive orders from on high, standing with the most vulnerable through direct action or public awareness campaigns.

We the people have the power to enshrine the #RightToBelong as public and private policy. A policy is a kind of pledge to guide future action. When an agency or institution adopts a policy, they are saying, “Hold us accountable to this.”  

We need community organizations, local and state agencies and governing bodies—indeed, the federal government—to adopt policies declaring that the right to culture is a core human right, and requiring that all public statements and actions assert, protect, and embody the primacy of belonging, guaranteeing full belonging to each and every community and resident.


Ten days after the 2016 presidential election, the people-powered U.S. Department of Arts and Culture (USDAC) launched Standing for Cultural Democracy: The USDAC’s Policy and Action Platform, our ten-point blueprint for cultural democracy. The platform addresses many issues that stand in the way of cultural democracy, offering powerful policies and interventions to create culture shift.

Platform Point 5, “Invest in Belonging and Cultural Citizenship,” starts with this assertion: “Our chief cultural deficit is belonging.” It urges every public institution and private organization to adopt a Policy on Belonging, one that establishes standards of belonging to ensure that all public statements and policy and program decisions embody, protect, and guarantee full belonging.

Imagine adopting a Policy on Belonging as a first step to full inclusion, participation, and welcome in every community. Imagine shifting a culture that targets otherness to a culture that pledges allegiance to pluralism, valuing the richness of difference as much as the strengths of commonality:

  • WHAT IF the Planning Department in your town was required to review proposals to rezone neighborhoods, assessing their impact on the #RightToBelong? They might consider how adding commercial zones (for instance) could impact belonging by attracting newcomers who patronize trendy bars and boutiques, driving up rentals and driving out longstanding residents. Planners guided by the Policy on Belonging could modify the proposal, introduce residential rent control, create a subsidy or tax credit for long-term renters, or take other actions to ensure that increasing commercial opportunity doesn’t result in displacement of those who helped to create the neighborhood’s vibrancy and interest.

  • WHAT IF a group of local School Board members opposed to immigration began lobbying for an end to bilingual education in a community with many Spanish-speaking newcomers? If the School Board had adopted a Policy on Belonging, they’d have an obligation to ensure that all students felt equally welcome and all understood that the #RightToBelong applied to themselves and their families, giving them grounds to reject the lobby’s program.

  • WHAT IF church leaders in your neighborhood wanted to stand in solidarity with Jewish and Muslim neighbors whose houses of worship has been vandalized? They could adopt a Policy on Belonging in response to what’s happening in their own community, then go further and propose that the state and national governing bodies of their faith do likewise, spreading the #RightToBelong far and wide.

STEP ONE: Download the toolkit

Join us in promoting and piloting the Policy on Belonging and make full belonging real for everyone:

  • Download the Policy on Belonging Toolkit and review several paths to getting the Policy on Belonging adopted in your community—or create your own.
  • Take part in our Policy on Belonging Citizen Artist Salon on May 17th: details coming soon.
  • Read on for additional context and information.
  • Fill out the form at the bottom of the page to express interest and request support in activating a Policy of Belonging in your community!



  • Roberto Bedoya, Secretary of Belonging on USDAC National Cabinet and Oakland Cultural Affairs Manager
  • Andrew Grant-Thomas, cofounder of EmbraceRace and editor of the Othering & Belonging journal
  • Arlene Goldbard, USDAC Chief Policy Wonk and author of The Culture of Possibility: Art, Artists & The Future

STEP THREE: Ready to make this real where you are?

Start by filling out this form to let us know you’re interested. We can brainstorm with you, provide strategic and technical assistance, promote promising efforts through our blog and social media, and provide moral support. Even if you aren’t sure of specifics, let us know of your interest and we’ll be in touch.