Shared Values — a cause and an action.
Mission: The mission of Soliya is to empower young people in the United States and across the globe to deal with difference constructively by cultivating the empathy, critical thinking, and communication skills necessary to foster cooperation and respect across cultural, religious, and geographic borders; uncover individual and institutional biases; and work toward compassionate and civil societies.
About: Our increasingly complex and interconnected world demands a generation of new leaders equipped with the requisite skills and understanding to advance peace and foster inclusive societies. Since 2002, Soliya has combined best practices from intercultural dialogue with innovative uses of accessible new media technologies to engage thousands of students and emerging leaders from over 27 countries through our flagship Connect Program and our Facilitation Training and Practicum. Through these two programs, we expose young people to constructive dialogue across differences and then empower them to actively foster and facilitate such dialogues- whether online or in-person, and across national borders or within polarized communities. Additionally, through our founding of the Virtual Exchange Coalition and ongoing research partnership with the Saxelab Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at MIT, Soliya is playing a leading role in popularizing and professionalizing virtual exchange as a key 21st century pedagogy that can build critical divides with unprecedented scale and reach.
The Connect Program
The Connect Program is Soliya's flagship virtual exchange program through which students from "Western" and predominantly Muslim societies meet face-to-face in weekly small-group dialogue sessions as part of their university education. Under the guidance of skilled facilitators, students engage in deeply personal and frequently challenging dialogue and collaboration around subjects such as religion and identity, the role of youth in society, and civic engagement. The experience offers participants - often for the very first time - the opportunity to voice their opinions, critically explore relevant and potentially divisive issues, and be exposed to new perspectives in a safe environment. The demonstrated impact of this programming includes significant reductions in young people's susceptibility to extremism and xenophobia and increases in their inclination and capacity to communicate and collaborate constructively across differences.
Facilitation Training and Practicum
Soliya partners with NGOs, businesses, and advanced academic programs to empower educators, emerging leaders, and Connect Program alumni through our Facilitation Training and Practicum. As part of a diverse group, typically comprised of 8-10 people from around the world, participants attend weekly two-hour training sessions that include skill-development through tutorials and group discussions, as well as deep practice through role playing of different dialogue models. Graduates of the training are then invited to hone their skills by facilitating for Soliya's Connect Program. They are paired with a more senior co-facilitator and receive extensive individual coach support and feedback. Participants gain hands-on facilitation experience through actively guiding a group process in an online space, and they become adept at leveraging innovative technologies for dialogue and civic engagement. Furthermore, they join a global network of facilitators, including religious leaders, civic leaders, and educators from around the world who are applying their skills not only in Soliya's programs but also in their own communities.
Partner Since: 2017
Founder (year established): Lucas Welch and Liza Chambers