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SisterWeb’s Community Quilting: To Increase a Sense of Belonging

Belonging refers to a deep aspect of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion efforts that points to a feeling of unity within a group. Some say this is the opposite of "othering".

Here are some examples of what SisterWeb has done to increase belonging over the last two years:

  • SisterWeb staff highlights and shoutouts that occur monthly on our internal newsletter, staff meetings, and social media.

  • Holiday parties for SisterWeb staff.

  • Monthly sharing circles among SisterWeb doulas.

  • Making our office, 'the cottage', more inviting and welcoming with snacks and art.

  • Cultivating the SisterWeb garden as a beautiful space being used by SisterWeb staff and clients.

At our All Staff retreat in 2022, SisterWeb staff collectively identified markers of success. We now collect data on each of these measures. The 2022-2023 Fiscal Year report analysis showed us that:

  • Eighty-five percent (85%) of SisterWeb doulas feel that the organization cares for their emotional and physical wellbeing. 

  • Ninety-two percent (92%) of SisterWeb doulas feel connected to and respected by their clients. 

  • Ninety-five percent (95%) of SisterWeb doulas feel connected to and respected by the doulas in their cohort.

  • Eighty-seven percent (87%) of SisterWeb doulas feel like SisterWeb is helping them achieve their professional goals.

  • Ninety-seven percent (97%) of SisterWeb doulas feel supported and encouraged by their mentors.

We then added in a new metric that SisterWeb staff co-wrote, and which was added into our monthly surveys. The 2022-2023 Fiscal Year report analysis showed us that:

  • 92% of SisterWeb doulas and staff feel like their voice is heard within the organization.

The new strategy that was decided upon in 2023 to help increase the feeling of belonging among staff members was the creation of a staff quilt. With the guidance and expertise of quilter Marylyn Tesconi, SisterWeb staff attended both a “learning session” and a “doing session” to create the quilt squares. Marylyn and Alli Cuentos, SisterWeb Co-Founder and Director of Evaluations, then assembled the quilt during the summer and fall of 2023.

Marylyn Tesconi, a self-taught quilter, has been making quilts for 42 years. She worked on the AIDS quilt, a memorial community quilt to remember those who have died from HIV/AIDS, and she has also worked in Restorative Justice as a Healing Partner with the Ahimsa collective, working with people during their reentry from incarceration.

Marylyn came to SisterWeb through quilt making. She made baby quilts for both Alli Cuentos, for births which they attended as private doulas. When SisterWeb decided to embark on the creation of a community quilt, Marylyn was excited to help facilitate the project.

Marylyn met with the SisterWeb staff at ‘the cottage’, SisterWeb’s office in the Bayview. The first meeting involved a ‘learning session’, where she was introduced to the staff, displayed some finished quilts, and went over what making a community quilt would entail. The staff met again a second time for a ‘doing session’, where staff members created squares to be used in the final quilt. It was wonderful to see the color, individuality and artistic creativity in each person’s creations! Themes that appeared in the squares included Community, Wisdom, Love, Birth, Peace, and Life.

The SisterWeb community quilt was displayed in December 2023 at SisterWeb’s fundraising event, SisterWeb Shines! It looked wonderful and was a beautiful representation of the SisterWeb community.

Thank you Marylyn, for facilitating and teaching the staff of SisterWeb how to create such a beautiful artistic expression - one that we will treasure for many years to come! Watch the video below to learn more about Marylyn's story and SisterWeb's Community Quilting gathering.

This blog post was written by Roxane Scherek, Intern for the SisterWeb Evaluations Department and Master of Public Health (MPH) Candidate at University of San Francisco with support and guidance from Sofía Carbone, SisterWeb's Communications Coordinator and Alli Cuentos, SisterWeb's Evaluations Director.

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