• Reba Hsu

Seeding Civity with Welcoming America

Updated: Sep 19, 2019

We officially kicked off our Welcoming America Seeding Civity partnership with a Civity workshop in San José, CA, on September 4. Through this partnership, made possible by a grant from the Hewlett Foundation, we will be supporting selected Welcoming Network members to deepen their work by creating and growing opportunities for people to build relationships across difference.

The San José workshop took place at the Emma Prusch Farm Park—a two-acre community farm operated by Veggielution, one of our two lead community partners, along with the City of San José's Office of Immigrant Affairs. The Farm Park is located in The Mayfair, a vibrant, working-class, immigrant community which is also one of the most impoverished areas in Silicon Valley. Emma Prusch hosts a number of food-centered programs and offers a safe, accessible community gathering space for members of the East San José community to reconnect to the land and to each other. Like Civity, Veggielution’s work is rooted in the idea that building relationships is key to solving community problems. We can’t think of a place more fitting for a Civity workshop!

During the workshop, we had the opportunity to meet and hear from a group of diverse community leaders from across the city. They shared the challenges their community faces and what they’re doing to help. As we moved into our interactive exercises, the energy in the room grew lively as people offered their own stories and listened to others’. Afterward, they reflected on the workshop experience:

"It was great to hear the other people's stories and how their differences colored their experiences. I agree that once you explore those differences it is a lot easier to connect with others."
"It was a great listening experience. I feel way more connected now than I previously was."
“It reminded me to practice more -- to make space for my own others' stories rather than charging forward through an agenda."

Words that participants used to describe the experience were "refreshing," "surprising," "inspiring," "fun," "thought-provoking," and "illuminating.”

At the end of the workshop, Cayce Hill, Veggielution’s Executive Director, encouraged everyone to help themselves to a bounty of tomatoes and cucumbers, freshly harvested from the farm that morning. We happily obliged!

Civity looks forward to deepening our relationships with this emerging San José network and engaging other leaders in the community as they create opportunities for people to build relationships across difference.

Our other Welcoming America partner communities are also poised to begin Seeding Civity. In October, we will be facilitating Civity workshops in Allegheny County, PA, Champaign-Urbana, IL, and Salt Lake County, UT.

We are already inspired by our work with these Seeding Civity partners. As Welcoming America members, they understand the powerful role of relationship-building in creating welcoming, inclusive communities. We were further inspired by our recent This Is Civity interview with Welcoming America’s executive director, Rachel Peric. Rachel identifies one of the biggest challenges of our current cultural moment as our inability to “connect the dots:” We often don’t realize that there are people in our very same communities who share our aspiration to create a community that works better for them.

While most of us are not actively excluding people, Rachel reminds us that we need to learn how to include if we want to become “upstanders” rather than bystanders.

We couldn’t agree more. One of the primary goals of our Civity workshops is to give people practical, accessible, and portable strategies for building more inclusive communities. If you haven’t heard it yet, listen to the interview with Rachel here. And stay tuned for more updates on Seeding Civity in Welcoming America communities!

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