Belonging & Civic Muscle as a Vital Condition


Belonging and Civic Muscle is about having fulfilling relationships and social support that people need to thrive. It’s about being part of a community and contributing to its vibrancy. Social support through friends, family, and other networks contributes to our practical and emotional needs, enhances mental well-being, helps us navigate the challenges of life, and reinforces healthy behaviors. 

People with a stronger sense of efficacy, belonging, and social connectedness tend to live healthier, happier lives. At the community and neighborhood level, social cohesion strengthens social ties and engenders collective attachment. Higher levels of social cohesion are associated with higher levels of trust, cooperation and social capital, providing the necessary foundation for working together across groups and sectors, and building the “civic infrastructure” for community members to co-create a shared future. These patterns can create a virtuous cycle – working together supports stronger communication and develops a sense of connectedness and mutual obligation. Aa people in a community feel valued and cared for, they become more confident and willing to participate in the community, contributing to its vibrancy and affecting change. Alternatively, a community built in silos that does not encourage connectedness can lead to a pattern of apathy, and without investment to reverse these patterns, decades of community decay.


Thriving Together: A Springboard for Equitable Recovery & Resilience in Communities Across America

This new report is a joint project of the CDC Foundation and Well Being Trust, coordinated with Community Initiatives and ReThink Health. The report acknowledges that we are now struggling and suffering through profound losses and ghastly experiences of systemic racism. Our resilience and humanity are being tested, yet we have the power to change course together. Communities across the country have an immense reservoir of energy, courage, and imagination. Our best hope for changing course is to organize local and national action around a single, unifying, measurable expectation: All people and places thriving—no exceptions. The report leverages the Vital Conditions for Well-Being framework to provide a "springboard" for communities in recovery and resilience that is imperative to this moment in time.

Find the full report and the library of resources and tools coming out of collaborative work to develop Thriving Together below, and scroll on for more resources to improve belonging and civic muscle in your community.



Opportunities to Improve Belonging & Civic Muscle


  • Cultivate community participation and leadership
  • Resist the rise of hate and dismantle systemic oppression and racism
  • Build vibrant, inclusive communities


Stories for Inspiration

Explore the stories below to read interesting, engaging content about what is happening at the state, national, and local level to improve belonging and civic muscle.


Screen grab of For Healthy Communities, Look Beyond Diet and Exercise
For Healthy Communities, Look Beyond Diet and Exercise
Story - Written
Brought to you by Yes! Magazine
Screen capture of
How creative thinking helped Seattle flatten the curve
Story - Written
Brought to you by National Geographic Society
Published on 05/13/2020
Screen shot of the headline of the story
Census Response, Civic Engagement and COVID-19
Story - Written
Brought to you by U.S. News
Targeted Universalism
Story - Video
Brought to you by Othering and Belonging Institute
Cover page for resource to use arts and culture to advance equity and inclusion
Using Arts and Culture to Advance Equity and Inclusion
Resource - Report
Brought to you by Inclusive Debuque
Colorful hands reaching out Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
How Does Our Sense of Belonging Shape our Mental Health?
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Commons


Data Resources

Explore the data tools below to find data and related resources specifically relevant to belonging and civic muscle.


Screen capture of National Equity Atlas
National Equity Atlas
Tool - Data/mapping Tool
Brought to you by PolicyLink
Screen shot of the homepage
PLACES: Local Data for Better Health
Dataset - Data/mapping Tool
Brought to you by CDC
Screen grab of MIT Election Election Data + Science Lab
MIT Election Data + Science Lab
Tool - Data/mapping Tool
Brought to you by Massachusetts Institute of Technology Community Innovators Lab
Queering the Map
Queering the Map
Tool - Data/mapping Tool
Brought to you by Queering the Map
Staff Pick!
Native Land
Native Land
Tool - Data/mapping Tool
Brought to you by Native Land Digital
Screen shot of the homepage
Racial Equity Data Hub
Tool - Data/mapping Tool
Rural Data Explorer
Rural Data Explorer
Tool
Brought to you by HHS Health Resources and Services Administration
photo of election polling station doors Photo by Elliott Stallion on Unsplash
Voting Maps and Data Resource Collection
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Commons


Policy Resources

Explore the resources below that outline one or more policies that specifically seek to improve belonging and civic muscle.


Healthy Communities Policy Guide
Healthy Communities Policy Guide
Resource - Model Policy
Website for Healing the Nation
Healing the Nation: Advancing Mental Health and Addiction Policy
Resource - Website/webpage
Brought to you by Well Being Trust
Screen grab of the Community Tool Box: Influencing Policy Development tool
Community Tool Box: Influencing Policy Development
Tool
Brought to you by KU Center for Community Health and Development: Community Tool Box
two motorcyclists at a train crossing in a small town Photo by craig kerwien on Unsplash
Planning for Healthy, Equitable Communities
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Commons


Action & Dialogue Guides

Explore below to find replicable, actionable content that is easily adaptable as a strategy to improve belonging and civic muscle, as well as guides and tools for in-person and virtual dialogues. 


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
Targeted Universalism: Expanding Belonging
Resource - Guide/handbook
Brought to you by Othering and Belonging Institute
PDF Cover: Conversation Guide: Civic Renewal
Conversation Guide: Civic Renewal
Resource - Guide/handbook
Brought to you by Living Room Conversations
Cover of College Students' Sense of Belonging
College Students’ Sense of Belonging
Resource - Book
Brought to you by Routledge
Screen grab of Eight Keys to Bridging Our Differences
Eight Keys to Bridging Our Differences
Story - Written
Brought to you by Greater Good Science Center
Published on 07/22/2020
Illustration of six people standing side-by-side, each with a different color shirt (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple) and their pronouns written across their chest.
Beyond Allyship: Leveraging Activism Tools to Improve Transgender and Nonbinary Health
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Commons
Published on 01/26/2022
Collage of portraits from 100 Million Healthier Lives movement
Engaging People with Lived Experience Toolkit
Tool - Toolkit/toolbox
Brought to you by 100MHL
Colorful compilation of photos of Black people
Centering Black Voices
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Commons


About the Vital Conditions

Belonging and Civic Muscle is one of seven “Vital Conditions” that comprise the Vital Conditions for Health and Well-being framework. This is a useful framework for conceptualizing holistic well-being and the Conditions that give rise to it, as well as identifying opportunities to shift those systems and drive transformative community change and improvement. It brings together major determinants of health, exposing how parts of a multi-faceted whole work as a system to produce equitable well-being. Learn more about the framework: 


Blue banner with a photo of Bobby Milstein and titles that read
Commons Good Bobby Milstein, PhD, MPH
Story - Audio
Brought to you by Community Commons
Published on 02/17/2020
A mural of a person with different patterns in their hair. Photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash.
Bringing the Vital Conditions to Life through People, Place, and Possibility
Story - Original
Brought to you by Community Commons