A year of fostering belonging: 2021 reflections

As the world headed into a second year of the pandemic, we faced new and familiar challenges from misinformation, climate change and migration, and uneven economic recovery. But we also saw a surge of unprecedented support in racial equity, accessibility, and infrastructure investment.

As we look ahead to 2022, here are some of the key accomplishments we believe brought us closer to achieving our vision of a more welcoming America and world:

Pandemic response

  • Vaccine equity: Through the Resilient Rapid Response Initiative, we and our partners at the World Education Services Mariam Assefa Fund disbursed another round of grants to 14 U.S. communities working to ensure vaccine equity. We also held a webinar on vaccine hesitancy in immigrant communities that garnered 400+ participants.
  • Language access expertise: Through 10 virtual workshops led by our partners Global Wordsmiths, 75 participants in our network receive language access advice and training to ensure speakers of languages other than English receive vital information on public health, emergency response, and more.
  • Inclusive economic recovery: As more Americans were getting vaccinated, how did communities respond to the broader economic recovery? Check out the stories of impact from our members in Atlanta, GA and the Central Valley region in California.
  • Emergency management toolkit: For community leaders seeking to make emergency management responses more equitable, we created an inclusive emergency management toolkit (in English and Spanish) in partnership with the Institute for Diversity and Inclusion in Emergency Management.

Network capacity building

  • Webinars: By the end of 2021, we will have hosted 19 webinars on topics ranging from vaccine hesitancy in immigrant communities, to unaccompanied minors at the U.S.-Mexico border, to housing solutions for Afghan refugees. Find the recordings in our resource library.
  • Membership increase: In 2021, we increased our membership by 35% to now include 293 nonprofit organizations and governments around the world. See map
  • Welcoming Interactive: Remaining virtual, we hosted our annual conference with two days of sessions on housing, small business recovery, messaging, and immigrant inclusion. Check out the session recordings and mark your calendars for our next conference in Charlotte (in person!)
  • Welcoming International: In June, our international members gathered virtually to share ideas and exchange best practices on welcoming messages during the pandemic. Under new leadership, our international membership cohort will conduct its second virtual convening in December.

Welcoming infrastructure

  • Welcoming Standard: To help communities define what welcoming means, we convened advisory and technical committees to help us update the Welcoming Standard. Have thoughts on what makes a place welcoming? Submit a public comment by December 1.
  • Pittsburgh becomes Certified Welcoming: In September, we announced that the City of Pittsburgh became the 12th place to become Certified Welcoming, the third in Pennsylvania to do so. Read more and see how the city is taking action toward immigrant inclusion with its new status.
  • Gateways for Growth: As part of our continued partnership with New American Economy, we worked with 19 localities in the U.S. to continue the Gateways for Growth Challenge, providing technical assistance so that communities can produce multi-sector immigrant inclusion and welcoming strategies.
  • Welcoming Economies: We partnered with Global Detroit to work with five communities and organizations in the Welcoming Network to advance the economic inclusion of immigrants through technical assistance, coaching, peer learning, and more. Read more

Fostering belonging

  • Belonging Begins With US: Since launching the national campaign on belonging with the Ad Council and American Immigration Council in December 2020, we have worked this year to put the values of belonging into practice:
  • Community of Practice: To help communities create more diverse boards and commissions, we engaged 57 participants across 48 organizations in our Inclusive and Collaborative Community of Practice.
  • Stories of impact: Check out the stories of belonging from communities who pivoted their work during the height of the pandemic.
  • Welcoming Week: “Belonging Begins With Us” was the theme of this year’s Welcoming Week festivities in September. Over 450 events took place virtually and in-person across the U.S. and Canada to demonstrate how each of us has the power to help others belong in our communities.
  • Video and webinar series: In October, we launched the three-part Fostering Belonging Individually and Structurally video and webinar series as a way to train individuals on how to foster belonging in all types of communities. Watch here
  • Fund to Foster Belonging: We launched the application process for communities to receive $40,000 for projects that bring immigrant and non-immigrant communities together in Georgia and North Carolina.
  • Cooking up belonging: In March, we published the Taste of Belonging cookbook with recipes from our Welcoming Network. The cookbook also comes with examples of how communities bridge and foster belonging between immigrant and non-immigrant communities. Read now

Meeting the moment

  • Welcoming Afghans: With the departure of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, we revived our resources on welcoming refugees to support our members in welcoming Afghan refugees to their communities. We also published a new resource toolkit for our members and partners.
  • 20th anniversary of 9/11: With the migration of Afghan refugees, we also reflected on the 20th anniversary of September 11 and the need to invest in welcoming infrastructure more than ever.
  • Celebrating citizenship with Old Navy: For the Fourth of July, we partnered with eight of our members and clothing brand Old Navy to celebrate new Americans who recently became U.S. citizens through a social media campaign featuring Old Navy’s classic flag tee. Read more

Support belonging in 2022 (and beyond)

Few of these issues will be solved within the next year, let alone the next five. But there remains an urgency to this work. What needs to be done NOW to ensure that our world is more resilient, equitable, and just for all people, no matter your background?