Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A workshop at Dr. Musharraf Hussain's community center in Nottingham (Photo: Willemijn  Lambert)

“Whatever the differences between Europe and America, the focus on trust as an indispensable foundation for constructive change in community relations, economics, and politics resonates everywhere,” writes US IofC national director Rob Corcoran following a twelve-day visit to six cities in the UK and Netherlands.

Corcoran’s book, Trustbuilding, provided the basis for talks and workshops in London, Nottingham, Bradford, Liverpool, The Hague and Amsterdam. “Where does trust most need to be built in my community? And how do we move from a mentality of fear and control to a process of real partnership leading to constructive change?” Corcoran asked his audiences.

He was the guest speaker at a public seminar hosted by Nottingham‘s Interfaith Council and led a workshop at the request of Dr Musharraf Hussain, Director of the Karimia Institute, a leading British Muslim organization engaged in community development, adult classes, and interfaith work. He did several interviews on the institute's Radio Dawn. In Bradford he spoke at the dinner for the university’s Rotary Peace Fellow and met with leaders of the council representing the city’s 86 mosques. They considered: “What is the conversation that is not taking place? What is the topic we fear to put on the table?”

Workshop at Liverpool Hope University (Photo: Willemijn  Lambert)

Students at Liverpool Hope University attended a workshop organized by Charlotte Sawyer, a graduate, and Jonty Herman, the student union vice president. Liverpool Hope recently launched its School for Changemakers program. The vice chancellor and rector, Gerald Pillay, says it aims to prepare students "not only for the world of work but the work of the world."

In London, people from many cultures and continents crowded a forum at Greencoat Place where Corcoran described key steps in trustbuilding. He concluded, “Difficulties and even painful history, if faced honestly, can become our most powerful assets.” (Read a full report of the Greencoat Forum)

Students of international journalism in Amsterdam were particularly interested in stories of how to engage with the “other” – dialogues with Muslims and evangelical Christians in Richmond and the interactions with the local newspaper that encouraged a more inclusive and constructive approach to news coverage.

Despite the Netherland’s reputation for tolerance, there's unease about the difficulty of integrating an increasingly diverse national community and the extent to which right-wing parties control the political process. After a lecture in The Hague, one woman said, “I have lived here for thirty years but I still am not treated as fully Dutch.” This prompted considerable discussion among the audience and agreement that there is still much need for “honest conversation."

A workshop for young professionals in The Hague (Photo: Rob Corcoran)

After a final all-day workshop for a diverse group of young professionals and community activists, one wrote, “I valued the trust in the room. It was a safe place where you could connect with yourself and let your guard down.” Many appreciated learning practical tools. As one said, “I want to use the things I’ve learned today in daily life with my family and people at work.” Another wrote, “I want to have more honest conversation, especially with people I find hard to deal with.”


Read Rob Corcoran's blogs

Download the text of the speech made at the Greencoat Forum in London