Reflecting on what it means—and what it will take—to be truly welcoming

Reflecting on what it means—and what it will take—to be truly welcoming

Rachel Peric | July 16, 2020

In coming months, Welcoming America will be revisiting the Welcoming Standard—the guiding document for communities aspiring to be inclusive places for immigrants and all residents. You can explore the Welcoming Standard to see the kinds of policies and practices that communities should have in place. 

We also know that there are many factors that go into creating a truly welcoming community—it’s a task that began long before us, and will always need to be reinforced and deepened. What matters is: each of us can be influential in seeing these principles come to life, no matter where we start or how far we bring others with us.  

What we do know is that successful welcoming efforts take:

Vision. Model in practice and policy the values of the healthy democracy that we can become, community by community.

Leadership. Inspire others to join in that task through an inclusive and affirmative vision. They are led by individuals who work relentlessly to create an environment in which other leaders can rise to meet this moment, and are organized and networked to do so. They also use leadership to expand leadership toward more reflective leaders with the power to shape community decisions.  

All of us. Acknowledge and address racism—individual, institutional, and systemic. Situate the work of welcoming in a local, historical context that recognizes how long-time residents may have experienced and continue to experience an unwelcoming environment. Help their institutions and communities be places where we all feel at home, whether we've just arrived or have been here for generations. Help their institutions and communities to benefit from policies and practices that are informed by those most impacted by them, and which reduce barriers to opportunity not only for immigrants, but for residents who may be excluded because of race, religion, ability, gender identity, sexual orientation, and other factors. 

Mutuality and agency. Continually strive to build trust, mutual respect, and cooperation across lines of difference, which are the foundation for relationships and are in turn the foundation for any community endeavor. Recognize that institutions that focus on the most vulnerable to extend agency—not charity—will have the greatest impact on the community at large.  

Sustained commitment. Play the long game by continually reminding people of the values that are at stake. At the same time, work to address the upstream solutions to inequality and segregation that require a sustained commitment and a range of approaches that will look different and start from different places in each community. Understand that welcoming efforts begin with shared values and culminate in accountability—the accountability of our institutions to “we the people,” with an ever-broadening understanding of who that “we” encompasses.

In all of these tasks, we are here to support one another. This is the singular purpose of our work and it is bolstered every day by the efforts we see taking shape in every corner of the globe to reimagine how our communities can be more welcoming ones.  

As we face new challenges, we also celebrate the extraordinary leadership we see every day as beacons of hope and inspiration for what the future can hold, no matter what the past has wrought. 

If you have any thoughts on this, we welcome them. Please send them to [email protected].

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