Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Rob Corcoran and Anjum Ali conducted a three-day workshop for a diverse group of community leaders in Stockholm, Sweden, on trustbuilding in a diverse world. The training focused on connecting personal and social change; understanding the power of history, identity and trauma; surfacing key community issues and learning skills for designing and facilitating dialogues. Per H Samutvecklare, a social entrepreneur and facilitator is one of the organizing team. He sends this report:   

2017 Swedish workshop

In 2014, inspired by Hope in the Cities, we started the program “Hope in Järva,” a suburb of Stockholm where there is a large immigrant population. Our focus has been to look at the root causes of the tension in this region where 26 young people have been killed this year in shootings on the open street. The unemployment rate among Sweden’s foreign-born population is 22.2 percent compared to 4.1 percent among Swedish-born citizens. We found that there are interethnic tensions, intergenerational conflicts and a very low trust between the citizens and the state. We have been making progress on all three fronts, both by supporting community dialogues, trainings and sharing relevant tools with people in the community. 

The workshop drew a diverse group of 32 key residents, including police officers, business people, an official from the municipal district administration, a pastor, the vice-principal of a Muslim adult education school, Rotary entrepreneurs, and first and second generation immigrants. Colleagues also came from Denmark and Norway.

The American experiences were very well received by all the participants. The bridge of trust between IofC US and IofC Sweden made a crucial impact on the image of IofC in Stockholm. The biggest effect has been on our team building. With the guidance of Rob and Anjum we now have a common place to start our work with common methodology and principles. Key issues that emerged for future dialogues and forums include identity and nationality; diversity and employment; trust between public servants and citizens; and interreligious and secular issues.

2017 Swedish workshopWe now have a diverse group of people to build a team of collaborators in our effort in Järva. We notice that we are not just a program, but a growing network of friends from different cultures and countries who have a common passion for building trust and peace.  We feel more confident in hosting conversations that are at the heart of the divides in the community. During a recent workshop on forgiveness in the Muslim adult education school we were able to create a safe space for people to talk about violence, aggression and trauma in their different countries of origin.  

The official of the municipal district administration is working with us and we have been asked to present our ideas for the municipal district. The police district has asked for a meeting to discuss security and witness protection. The Rotary Club has also been influenced by the workshop and we are arranging a forum on “Competence without Prejudice” for job seekers, people from the business world and the employment office.

2017 Swedish workshopOur IofC team in Sweden has made “Trust and Peace – Personally, Locally and Globally” our overall goal. It is very important for us to continue the personal work and to better understand each other’s backgrounds. Our core group represents different religions: Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Judaism – and, yes, agnostics and atheists as well. We use the Quiet Time a lot. We don’t refer to any God but to calmness, the inner voice and our conscience. We really embrace the idea that I mirror the world and my changed inner world can change the outer world.

Rob Corcoran is Strategic Advisor for Community Trustbuilding and founder of Hope in the Cities, IofC's national flagship program. He is the author of Trustbuilding: an honest conversation on race, reconciliation and responsibility. Rob has conducted trustbuilding workshops in Australia, India, Europe, South Africa, and Brazil, and convened numerous national and international forums.

Anjum Ali is a member of the board of directors of Initiatives of Change USA. She has a graduate degree in Islamic Studies focusing on women and children's rights in Islamic Law and has served as an educator of Islam for over 15 years in the Richmond area and as a public speaker and diversity/inclusivity trainer at international forums. She was born in the USA but has lived and travelled abroad in South Asia, the Middle East and Europe. She and her family live in Richmond, Virginia.

Read Anjum Ali's reflections on the experience in Sweden