How Communities of Practice Foster Thoughtful Engagement, Collaboration, and Welcoming

Authored by Thought Partnerships

As part of Welcoming Week, we invited partners to share how they’re creating home together during a pandemic. Thought Partnerships is a nonprofit initiative dedicated to advancing non-violent, just, and inclusive societies. Thought Partnerships is a formal partner of Welcoming Week 2020.

Thought Partnerships (TP) joins millions around the world who are finding new ways to navigate through shifting norms and life experiences in the midst of a global pandemic. COVID-19 is exposing and exacerbating deeply rooted issues, such as systemic racism, escalating the risks of violence and insecurity for many populations, and perpetuating cycles of vulnerability and marginalization. We believe that peacebuilders around the world who are working tirelessly to build more just and inclusive societies for their communities and countries are critically important to strengthening social cohesion and creating transformative change. We also believe that unprecedented times like these, more than ever, call for shared solutions and coming together in community and solidarity.

At the heart of our work at Thought Partnerships is the idea that peer to peer learning is a critical building block for any successful field of work and is a particularly powerful ingredient for sustaining and growing social justice movements. We anchor our work in creating opportunities for deep learning and sharing within and across diverse geographies to harness the collective wisdom of experts, activists, and practitioners. 

TP’s model is about working together without being together and leveraging virtual tools to create access to an inclusive community of peacebuilders who feel they can bring their whole selves to the table. Like Welcoming America, and many others, when COVID-19 hit and the need for digital connection surged to the forefront, we worked to double down on our vision of furthering welcoming and inclusion through gathering together in a digital space. Back in April, we partnered up with TP community member, Tony McAleer, to host a virtual book-talk on his book, The Cure for Hate: A Former White Supremacist’s Journey from Violent Extremism to Radical Compassion. The event brought together participants from all over the globe in geographies as diverse as the U.S., Canada, South Sudan, Uganda, Australia, and more. One participant, Vuga William, a member of TP’s community and the founder of the organization Youth Empowerment Foundation that works to foster peaceful relationships between South Sudanese refugees and Ugandan host communities, found the event particularly powerful: 

“We are so glad to have been part of the Thought Partnerships community that brings different communities together. We learned a lot from Tony McAleer’s book event. The event offered us a chance to share our story as refugees who have experienced a similar background of hate caused by the tribal civil wars and are now champions of peaceful coexistence in our community. Sharing stories like this helps us to get more focused and press on with advocacy for a hate-free society.”

It is connections like this that remind us just how powerful connecting, collaborating, sharing, and learning across contexts and geographies can be. Over the past year, we’ve grown tremendously into a vibrant community representing nearly 70 organizations and 50+ contexts around the world. As we continue to grow and witness the immense catalyzing power of bringing together individuals, like Tony and Vuga, we are reminded that in moments when the work of welcoming feels difficult and isolating, coming together in a community to learn and share can provide us the inspiration to push forward. 

During a time when the very fabric of the social contract is being ripped apart, Thought Partnerships seeks to weave a tapestry of collaboration across the world; a tapestry where various threads for change can be woven together to help catalyze systemic change. We welcome you to learn more about our work, meet members of our community, and contribute to our growing repository of Welcoming Resources.

Video Resources:

Vuga William: Thought Partnerships Interview Series

Meet Members of the Community of Practice for Countering Hate & Division