Ep.9 I Date 28.01.2021

Guest Name –Marc Itturiaga

Episode name - Marc Itturiaga on building healthier, engaged, more active & sustainable communities by fostering a sense of BELONGING at Work, in Sport and Recreation, and in Community Organizations.

About Marc Itturiaga –

About Marc Itturiaga – 

Belonging Crusader (Fostering inclusivity at Work + Play + Community)

Advocate for People over Systems

Founder of Bonobo Consulting

Executive Director at MSA

Co-Chair for the NIRSA Strategic Values Commission for Sustainable Communities

Visionary | Change Maker | Thought Leader | Public Speaker | Community Builder | Collaborator | Sports & Recreation Inclusivity Expert | Loves Basketball | Raptors Fan | Lego Dad | Comic Geek

On a mission to create a truly inclusive society with a belief that BELONGINGNESS (Invitational, Welcoming and Inclusiveness) in Sport + Recreation + Community leads to the increased participation, recruitment and retention of people of all identities, abilities, cultures, faiths, histories, and motivations.





Want higher engagement, increased participation & retention, and a fulfilling experience?  

Look no further and checkout this awe-inspiring thought-provoking conversation with the “Belonging Crusader”, The Magnificent Marc, who, during his 20+ years of leadership roles in Higher Ed and Recreation & Community Development, has changed systems, developed innovative strategies, curated meaningful collaborations and mentored change-makers to help EVERYONE feel Invited, Welcomed & Included. 

Episode Highlights:

  1. The Beginning (Early Life, Education, Ideologies & Experiences)

    Marc has always known the privilege of a white, straight, cis gender man, but his lived experience is much more diverse. He is the product of an immigrant father from Chile and Quebecois mother, both who met in Toronto while learning English. He grew up in a household of mixed cultures and languages, yet never embraced them fully. He was surrounded by diversity - he had a Syrian Muslim uncle, his mother's best friends were 2 women of colour (from India and the Caribbean), his step mother was from the Philippines, and his best friend was black. He never really connected with his grandparents due to language barriers and distance. Growing up, he was labelled gifted and skipped a grade, always being the youngest in his classes. He went to a Catholic school, though he chose on his own not to get confirmed into the faith as he questioned its teachings. He went to post-secondary education, not realizing he was a first generation university student. He started in a Math program with a major in Actuarial Sciences. He ended up with a 4 year General Arts degree, taking courses in Physics, Chemistry, Children's Literature, Psychology and Classical Studies. After graduation, he worked at a private school as a Dorm Master, project leader for a National Youth program and for an International youth program where he lived in rural Ecuador, and 2 Universities - McMaster and University of Toronto, in Residence Life and International Students Office respectively. Five of his first supervisors were women, women of colour and LGTBQ+.  Eventually he settled into the University of Waterloo in the Department of Athletics and Recreation.

    His journey through a diverse landscape of colour, culture, faiths, and ideologies were opportunities to observe, understand and cherish the differences in our world.

    Though he never felt like he truly belonged in his family, at work, or in society, neither did he feel the need to fit in. He sought experiences and people for the sake of learning more, and was comfortable moving on to the next experience. This gave him a unique perspective which led to many successes, but it also came with a challenge of never finding his fit. Over his career he has been let go of positions over 4 times, never for cause but because leadership did not see him as the right fit for the future, despite delivering, beyond expectations, on strategic outcomes. In one instance, he led a team that removed barriers and negotiated constraints to realize participant growth in sport and recreation programs from 11,000 to over 30,000 participants per year, yet senior leadership abolished his position because he didn't fit their ideal culture.

  2. The Realization


Though he had a passion for basketball, and played and organized leagues for decades, just for the pure fun of it, he never considered himself an athlete or a sports guy. He didn't grow up in a sports culture, didn't idolize coaches or players, and never pointed to a sports experience as a pivotal part of his identity or development. Though he worked in this sector for over 20 years, he never thought of himself as a sport leader, but as a people leader.  Through all these trials, tribulations and successes, he continually reflected on what he was passionate about and where his purpose lay. Over the last few years he had many conversations with friends, colleagues, and new connections and found himself coming back to a key point – “I always focused on People over Systems”. 

He started to think about why people play, and why most people don't, and latched onto the idea of Belonging. He theorized that as a society, we have put the onus on our people to try and fit into established cultures and systems - mostly created by privileged, white, straight, cis gender males - and wonder why we haven't achieved full inclusion. Instead of trying to fit people into our systems, he realized throughout his career, that success was achieved when he changed the system to fit the people I served.

Bonobo Consulting was born: Fostering Belonging in Sport + Recreation + Community, Where people feel Invited, Welcomed and Included.

3. The Birth of Bonobo


Founded in Jan 2020, Bonobo Consulting helps Sport, Recreation and Community organizations understand and prioritize fostering a sense of belonging leading to healthier, engaged and more active communities and increased recruitment and retention of participants. 

With over 20 years of creating inviting, welcoming and inclusive programs, Marc utilizes The Belonging Framework to – 

  • Increase membership sales, program registrations and participation rates
  • Increase target populations - Women, BIPOC, PWD, Families, 2SLGBTQ+, Older Adults
  • Increase numbers of diverse coaches, volunteers, officials, board members, and staff
  • Connect you with grants, resources & referrals 
  • Become more Equitable & Diverse by embedding BELONGING into everything you do

Bonobo Consulting works with a variety of organizations who are ready to take the active step towards systemic change, including:

  • Community & Municipal Recreation Centres
  • Campus Recreation
  • Sport and Social Clubs
  • Fitness & Training Centres
  • Community based Non-profit Organizations
  • Youth Sports
  • Governing Sport Organizations
  • Faith Groups

Clients / Partners include:

The Belonging Framework was selected as a Winner for the Global Design Challenge for Sport and Physical Activity Hackathon.

Link -> https://devpost.com/software/activating-a-belonging-framework-in-spar 

4. Community Associations

 a) ActiveCity Collective (A Guide to Building Canada’s Most Livable Region)

ActiveCity Collective is a thoughtful initiative by a group of passionate volunteers from organized sports, active recreation, tourism, and economic development to better leverage Calgary’s natural and diverse resources from across the commercial, social and public sectors to strengthen and sustain the economic, human, social and environmental prosperity of the city of Calgary, thereby attracting and retaining talents from across the globe.

b) NIRSA (Leaders in collegiate recreation)

NIRSA is a leader in higher education and the advocate for the advancement of recreation, sport, and wellness by providing educational and developmental opportunities, generating and sharing knowledge, and promoting networking and growth for our members.

c) Mohawk Students'​ Association (MSA)

MSA is a non-profit organization that exists to serve Mohawk students as they navigate college by creating a campus community they can lean on for positive experiences, relevant supports, a listening ear and a strong voice.

d) The Genesis Centre (A hub for the community - bridging people in shared celebration, learning, and play)

The Genesis Centre is a 225,000 square foot, $120 million multi-purpose complex enriching the health, wellness, and unity of Northeast Calgary. It is not only a venue for sport and recreation, but a place which caters to the diverse interest of the community. Facility spaces are capable of hosting everything from cultural events, social occasions, and performing arts, to business oriented uses such as trade shows, conferences, and corporate team building.

5. Personal Life

Marc is a super dad who loves to play with his kids and spend quality family time. He even calls himself a Lego Dad and a Comic Geek. His love for Sports & Recreation is second to none, especially for Basketball. He is a big time Toronto Raptors fan. 

6. Nuggets of Wisdom

  • If you wish to thrive (recruit & retain quality people), bend Systems to Include People and not otherwise.
  • Belonging is incomplete unless all the three elements - Invite, Welcome & Inclusion are adopted with integrity and authenticity.
  • Playing is an integral part of everyone’s life. Besides the physical benefits, its helps build some amazing diverse social connections that is essential to one’s core being. 

7. Tips for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

  • Find your purpose and make sure it aligns with your passion.
  • Understand why you are doing what you are doing. 

8. Tips for Job-Seekers

  • Do purposeful & meaningful work.
  • Work where you are accepted, valued, celebrated and belonged.
  • Find passion & love in what you do.

9. Ask from the community

Collaboration, connections, references, conversations and understanding to bring systemic change, thereby, promoting the vision of Belonging.

10. The Impact

  • Being a Point Guard, facilitating change to foster inclusion.
  • Help (empower, educate, inform) organizations create communities where people feel they BELONG.

P.S. We loved having Marc on the show and appreciate his candour and clarity of purpose while he shares his story and insights with us. Kudos to his tenacity, thoughtful cause, leadership capabilities and humility.  

Hope you enjoyed this episode and have had some key takeaways to reflect on and share with your loved ones. If you are an individual, who is feeling being left out, isolated, disconnected or unfulfilled; OR if you are an organization having participation, engagement or retention woes, you are in for a treat with The Magnificent Marc.  

Let’s make Bonobo Movement go viral!

Be Inclusive!

Stay Healthy and Spread Awesomeness…..