Breakthroughs banner new
November 2014            Newsletter of Initiatives of Change USA
Issue No. 30




What can we learn together about how to heal difficult history, understand the legacies that keep us apart and generate energy for building healthy inclusive societies?   


SAVE THE DATE! Next April 6-9, we will explore these important questions at an international conference in Richmond, VA. Scholars, grassroots activists, and representatives of business and government from across the US and other countries will meet to share experiences and explore the topic of Healing History: Memory, Legacy and Social Change.


Read more in the article below and make plans to join us in Richmond for this important conference!  


Healing History 2015
  Memory, legacy and social change

"In April 1865 the United States embarked upon a profound social transformation that has yet to run its course. The end of a devastating Civil War marked the end of the most powerful system of slavery in the modern world," says Dr. Edward Ayers, president of the University of Richmond and a noted historian. "In April 2015 at the Healing History conference we will gather at the epicenter of the slave trade and of the war to commemorate and reflect upon the still-unfolding ramifications of those events for the United States and the world."

Despite great strides toward healing and equality and its rapidly increasing diversity, America is still deeply divided by race and class. The polarization of our politics at state and national level is due at least in part to unresolved history. Yet America represents the world's boldest experiment in multicultural living. At a time of rising ethnic tensions throughout the world, this country, led by communities like Richmond, could demonstrate that facing the past with courage can lead to honest dialogue and that the place of greatest pain can be a place where healing can begin.   

Joining Initiatives of Change in hosting the conference are the City of Richmond, University of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University and other partners. Activities will take place in several locations - campus venues, historical sites, and other public spaces.

The conference will address themes of international relevance: the power of story and identity; the role of museums and public history sites in education and healing; the impact of unconscious bias and structural racism in justice systems, education, and health care; immigration and citizenship; and the need to build inclusive economies. Earlier this year Richmond made national news with the creation of an Office of Community Wealth Building aimed at addressing poverty.

"Richmond offers a unique environment for exploring history in regard to identity and culture, race, democracy," say the conference organizers. "By discussing the connection between history and social change the conference will explore ways to reform systems that keep people apart and to break long-standing cycles of poverty."

Read more
Caux Scholars Program in India
Practical experience in sustainable development
By Susan Corcoran

Asia Plateau, Panchgani
Applications are coming in for the first Caux Scholars Program to be held at Asia Plateau, the Initiatives of Change center in Panchgani, India. Twenty scholars from across the globe will gather for this intensive three-week academic course that runs from December 28, 2014, to January 16, 2015. As well as applicants from India, there are others from Pakistan and Afghanistan who are applying for the program.

Leading the program is Babu Ayindo, a Kenyan consultant in the design and facilitation of conflict resolution and peacebuilding processes. Ayindo is a researcher and trainer in the arts, peace education and development communication. He has worked in Ghana, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Mozambique, various parts of Europe, Korea and Fiji, to transform conflict in communities using the tools of theater and the arts. Ayindo was a Caux Scholar in 1999 and taught as a guest lecturer in the program in Switzerland for two summers.

The Caux Scholars Program-Asia Plateau (CSP-AP) will teach students to analyze conflicts and the factors that create and sustain them, as well as practical approaches to resolving them. Students will further develop their skills by visiting communities surrounding Panchgani where they will observe and experience peacebuilding and development work in the field. "Through interaction with a diverse array of peacebuilders and practical experience in the field of sustainable development, scholars will leave better prepared to address the conflicts that they face in their own communities," says CSP program director Jitka Hromek-Vaitla. Read more ...
Community Trustbuilding Fellowship
Becoming an authentic leader

John Taylor,
who recently joined the team as the Hope in the Cities program coordinator, writes of his experience at the first of five weekend modules of the Community Trustbuilding Fellowship.

After months of preparation, the time has finally arrived. Richmond Hill Retreat Center is ready to welcome participants in the Community Trustbuilding Fellowship. Some come by foot as they are resident at Richmond Hill, others by car from all parts of Richmond and as far away as and Washingto,n DC, and some by plane from Austin, TX, Memphis, TN, and Dayton, OH. All 30 of us are excited but harbor feelings of trepidation. We wonder about making ourselves vulnerable enough for this program that asks participants to reach deep within and be willing to share with others.

How can such a small group represent such wide diversity? In age, from the mid-20s to the late 60s; in vocation: corporate, public service and government, nonprofit, religious work; in religious expression, Christians of multiple denominations but also Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and nearly a third of us without any religious affiliation; in income; in life experience, as well as racial, ethnic, and gender diversity. This class of 2015 has one thing in common: leadership. Leadership as traditionally recognized with CEOs, executive directors, ministers, and community leaders. However, our focus was less on the doing and more about the being, in others words our focus was on who we are as leaders rather than on job titles ...

This first weekend's module was focused on "becoming an authentic leader." Our facilitators guided us through exercises, discussions and presentations. As we met as a whole group, reflected on our own, or shared in small groups we discovered and defined our deeply held values, principles, and responsibilities as individuals and within the communities that we serve.

We came with questions and expectations:
  • "I want to grow in the area of dealing with conflict, learning not to take it personally."
  • "I would like to make a genuine ally of someone not part of my normal circle."
  • "I want to find out where I am deep down in regard to race relations."
Read more ...  
Richmond Forum Series
Building a healthier future for all

(Photos: Karen Elliott Greisdorf)
In the US, socioeconomic status determines health outcomes, and socioeconomic status is determined by race, according to Dr. David Williams, Professor of Public Health and African American Studies at Harvard University. "Economic policy is health policy," said Williams, a global expert on the social determinants of health. He was speaking at a Community Trustbuilding Forum in Richmond, VA, on October 7, convened by Hope in the Cities and hosted by the Richmond-Times Dispatch.

The US consumes half the world's medical resources but ranked 11th in life expectancy in 1980 and 33rd by 2006. All immigrants have better health than all US born Americans, but the longer they stay in the US the unhealthier they become. "America's way of life is dangerous to your health," says Williams. Why is this?

Williams noted that exposure to adversity has an impact on health. His data showed the impact of segregated schools, segregated neighborhoods and other influences on health. Racial disparities cost the US economy $310 billion in health care costs every year. In addition, lower worker productivity and premature death costs over $1 trillion.

Williams also highlighted the impact of unconscious bias. Studies show that across the board minorities receive fewer procedures than whites. One study of hospitals across the country showed that minority patients with broken femurs were 50 percent less likely to be offered pain medication than white patients.

Community resource facilitators representing Richmond organizations involved in health care or building healthy communities, elicited responses from breakout groups. Questions included: How can we reduce unconscious bias and institutionalize the change over time? What would it take to fundamentally address the issue? What is the scale of intervention that is necessary? Read more ... 
Community screenings & conversation
Create community where we are 
By Charlotte Freeman

(Photos: Karen Elliott Greisdorf)
"Don't be an island. Don't be a spectator. Be part of positive change." That was the challenge offered by Debra Frazier and Rose Oliphant, former public housing residents featured in the film Chocolate City. This film, made by DC Native Ellie Walton, explores the gentrification of Washington, DC, through the eyes of a group of local women from the Arthur Capper/Carrollsburg public housing community. It was shown as the first in a series of monthly DC Community Film Screenings and Conversations hosted by Initiatives of Change. Seventy people gathered at IofC's new Washington, DC, office, WeWork, in the old Wonder Bread Factory in the Shaw neighborhood.

During the dialogue after the film, attendees commented on the pain they felt in watching the story of this public housing community in South East DC torn apart by economic forces and power structures that overwhelmed and excluded the voice of the community. Many recognized the uncomfortable reality that some of the things they enjoy in this city are the result of such displacement.

The highlight of the evening was the conversation with Debra and Rose. These inspirational women have committed themselves to rebuilding their old community and creating a new one with the mixed-income residents that have moved into the neighborhood.

Their persistent advocacy efforts are helping the former residents of Arthur Capper/Carrollsburg return to their community. They have successfully negotiated a 1 for 1 replacement of housing. For every public housing unit torn down, one must be built in its place. After four years of effort, they have also managed to gain an official seat at the table for the low-income residents. What used to be only "Home Owners Meetings" are now "Community Meetings" where tenants and seniors are included as active participants in decisions about their community. Read more ...

A place at the table

Mee Moua is the president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC). This is a powerful new force emerging in America's social and political landscape. Asian Americans are the nation's fastest-growing immigrant group. Rob Corcoran, national director of Initiatives of Change, got a first-hand view of this in September at the AAAJ national conference when he was invited, as one of the few non-Asians present, to be part of the opening panel. Mee Moua writes:

I was born in a thatched roof, bamboo hut in a small jungle village in northern Laos, where there was no electricity or running water. In 1978 my family was resettled in the United States as political refugees. Growing up as an immigrant child in America in a pre-dominantly white community in the mid-west, in the immediate aftermath of the Vietnam War, where every person of Asian descent was a "chink" or "gook" or an "enemy combatant," was hard.

I remember my mother once said to me, "These people don't know who we are or how we got here. No matter how long you live in this country...someone somewhere in this country will never like you because of the way you look. This is why you must study hard, go to college and one day be their boss. They may never like you because of the way you look, but they will have to respect you because of who you are." Her words gave me the strength to overcome the daily experiences of prejudice and bigotry-and reminded me that, compared to so many other children around the world, I was lucky to be alive, to be given a chance to go to school and to dream about a future that was beyond the next sunrise.

I reflect back on my political refugee experience and I realize that in order to taste the fruit of our family's liberation from death and warfare, I had to liberate myself and learn to insist, persist and lay claim to my identity as an American - economically, socially, culturally, and politically. I have had to acquire patience, compassion and forgiveness in the face of constant denial that I am a "real American", in the face of the perception that I am a perpetual foreigner, guest worker or tourist. Finally, I've had to learn to say "our" and "us" because if I don't constantly frame my intentions from an inclusive stance, then the one left standing outside could be me and my people.

In my quest to help re-define who I am as an American, I decided to run for public office. In 2002, I was elected as a State Senator for Minnesota where I served for almost ten years. I have reflected on that experience and realize that I learned so much.

Perhaps the most lasting lesson is that having people like you and me at the decision-making table really matters. When I first ran for office, a woman said to me, "I am so glad you are running for office. If you don't make room for yourself at the table, you will be on the menu!" I hear her voice every so often when I am able to divert a certain decision, intervene in a certain action or inform a certain audience.
Read more
We hope you enjoyed this issue of Breakthroughs. Please share this newsletter with your friends and forward it to those you know have a passion for trustbuilding.   
Thank you!
In this issue
Memory, legacy and social change in action
Caux Scholars Program in India
Becoming an authentic leader
Building a healthier future for all
Create community where we are
A place at the table
Please consider a
gift to Initiatives of Change!

Keep us in mind as you plan your year-end giving.

Sixty percent of our support comes from people just like you!
No gift is too large or too small.

Donate button 
Become a sustaining donor with a
  monthly gift!  
DC Workshop
How to negotiate difficult conversation and avoid indigestion!

November 25, 2014
6:00-9:00 pm

Location: Shaw Public Library, 1630 7th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001.

When we gather around the holiday table and we're face to face with family members who we know hold views different from our own, how can we get to pumpkin pie without choking on the same old arguments?
Dr. Carl Stauffer
Dr. Carl Stauffer
This workshop with Dr. Carl Stauffer, Asst. Professor of Development and Justice Studies, at Eastern Mennonite University and Academic Director of the Caux Scholars Program, will offer attendees a deeper understanding of how our communication styles impact our conflict transformation skills as well as contribute to our ability to engage in social diplomacy.

This event is free and open to the public. Registration required.

More information & registration   
Goodbye, Katie!
After four years as Operations Director for Initiatives of Change Katie Hathaway is moving on to accept a position with our Richmond partner organization Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities starting in December. 
We are excited for her as she begins this next phase of her career but we will miss her enormously. She has brought warmth and humor, as well as
creativity and a strong sense of organization to our work. She is an excellent troubleshooter with a can-do spirit!

Katie says: "I have enjoyed my 4 years here, working with amazing people who give their all for the work and  while I move on professionally, I know that personally I will always be involved."
 Financial Review
Initiatives of Change USA Financial Review

 Read online 
Print copies can be ordered
from our office 
IofC Annual Report
Initiatives of Change International

Read online
Print copies can be ordered
from our office 
A new film from South Africa
Beyond Forgiving
Beyond Forgiving trailer
This award winning film depicts the true story of two South Africans trying to move beyond their pain towards forgiveness and healing.  
2013 Healing History conference report

Print copies can be ordered from our office  
 Hope & inspiration
Check out the tools for change  in our books and media catalog


by Rob Corcoran



Read Rob Corcoran's latest blog

Lessons from long distance runners  


Blogger logo 
Initiatives of Change, USA
is part of a diverse global network with an 80-year track record of peacebuilding, conflict transformation and forging partnerships across divides of race, class, religion and politics.  
Our vision
We inspire a vision of community where a commitment to reconciliation and justice transcends competing identities and interests. 
Our mission
We equip leaders to build trust in diverse communities through a process of personal change, inclusive dialogue, healing historical conflict and teambuilding 
Our focus
We connect core values with personal and public action with a focus on racial reconciliation, economic inclusion and interfaith understanding.
For more information
Follow-up Links