Welcoming Affiliates use the following three pronged approach to change the dynamic for the better in communities across the country. The video modules below further illustrate how these approaches have been applied.
1.) Local Leadership Development
One of the keys to Welcoming America’s success is its local nature. Individuals in any given community are more likely to listen to people living in their community than to outsiders. The way a Welcoming affiliate is able to create locally driven Welcoming campaigns is by helping to organize Welcoming Committees, which become the nerve centers for local Welcoming campaigns. Welcoming committees become the place where community members who decide they want to improve the climate for immigrants in their town learn to go. They are also the driving force behind the two other, complementary Welcoming strategies – communications and public engagement. The local messages and fundraising needed for the communications strategy is provided by the committee. The committee also recruits and trains individuals to do public engagement, and maintains contact with the growing number of supporters it has identified in its community.
2.) Strategic Communications
In many U.S. communities, particularly new immigrant destinations, the messages native-born community members hear about immigrants are in large part negative. One need only watch the local news, or turn on talk radio, to verify this. Welcoming America attempts to change the messages people hear about immigrants in local communities by utilizing a number of key communications tools such as billboards, interactive websites, press conferences/press releases, and letters to the editor. The communications campaign also acts as a mass-marketing campaign, alerting thousands of individuals – who are either “untapped” or “unsure” – that there is a place they can go to either become active in resolving immigrant/native tensions or at least learn more about the changes taking place in their community.
3.) Public Engagement
This strategy centers on engaging members of the U.S.-born community in venues that are convenient and comfortable for them. Some examples of venues include places of worship, community centers, civic clubs, and local schools and universities. Ideally, presentations/dialogues are facilitated by at least one native-born resident and one recent immigrant from the community. Individuals who facilitate such conversations are called “welcoming ambassadors,” and are trained by local Welcoming affiliates or Welcoming committees. Welcoming participants overwhelmingly agree that direct contact is the most effective way to transform the way community residents think about immigrants and immigration. Direct engagement presents an opportunity for immigrants to demonstrate the values they share with their new neighbors, and is also a forum to openly discuss apprehensions and misunderstandings about the current U.S. immigration system, rumors about immigrants and immigration, and the barriers to community integration immigrants struggle to overcome.
Approaches in Action: “Building a Nation of Neighbors” Video Modules
“Building a Nation of Neighbors” is a series of video modules that provide examples of the Welcoming America model. The modules, which were developed by Active Voice in association with BeCause Foundation, were adapted from the documentary Welcome to Shelbyville, produced and directed by Kim A. Snyder.
Watch the clips below to learn more about how each of the approaches described above can be implemented. For more information about Building a Nation of Neighbors, and to watch the full series, click here.
Local Leaders: The Foundation of Welcoming Work (2 min) - This short video clip, part of the “Building a Nation of Neighbors” series, provides an overview of the local leadership development component of the Welcoming America approach.
Welcoming Messages: Changing the Perception of Immigrants (5 min) - This short video clip highlights efforts to reverse negative images of immigrants by using the strategic communications component of the Welcoming America approach.
Starting the Welcoming Conversation (4 min) – This short video clip highlights work bringing immigrants and long-time residents into direct, facilitated contact – a key strategy used in the pubic engagement component of the Welcoming America approach.
From Neighbors to Friends: Overcoming Common Misunderstandings (5 min) - This short video clip highlights how to bring together community members to address misunderstandings and stereotypes.– a key strategy used in the pubic engagement component of the Welcoming America approach.