Case Study #2: Building a coalition to increase belonging

The challenge: In a predominantly white city, residents of color did not feel welcomed and included within the broader community.

The solution: A coalition came together to amplify commonly excluded voices through an event that showed local businesses how they could be leaders in inclusion.

Why it matters: Partnerships are an effective tool to plan and execute events that support welcoming and long-term inclusion beyond Welcoming Week.


Bend, Oregon has historically been a city with limited diversity, according to Megan Perkins, board president of Embrace Bend and city council member at the City of Bend. As a mother of children of color, she co-founded Embrace Bend as a support network for other parents of children of color.

Within one day of starting their original Facebook group, they had more than 100 members. This emphasized the need for this type of work in their community. Since its founding in 2018, Embrace Bend’s work has evolved to include supporting the broader community to work on racial equity issues.

Embrace Bend’s first event focused on combating hate. At the event, Black, Indigenous, and other people of color defined what they wanted and needed to feel welcomed. Megan said that white Bend residents were shocked to hear that communities of color did not feel welcome or included.

Building a coalition

According to Megan, Embrace Bend wants their events to build on each other and reach new limits. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Embrace Bend compiled a list of area businesses committed to being more inclusive. The following year, they wanted to go deeper.

Embrace Bend partnered with the local destination marketing organization, Visit Bend, and a broad group of partners for their 2021 Welcoming Week event. Titled Investing in Belonging: Aligning Businesses for Bend’s Growth, the event’s goal was to define with broad groups of community members – including BIPOC, LGBTQ+ people, disabled people, elders, and unhoused people – what it means to be safe and welcomed in local businesses.

The event was a success and the coalition that formed had a lasting impact: Visit Bend and other local businesses have continued to partner with Embrace Bend. After the event, they began working with a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) consultant on a pilot program that conducts anonymous assessments with volunteer business owners and their staff. The consultant provides feedback to the businesses and develops seminars that support their learning. Because of fundraising through the coalition, including with Bend’s local foundation, the program is free for small businesses to participate.

Megan stated that coalition-building has been the most important part of organizing events like this. She shared that Welcoming Week messaging supported Embrace Bend’s outreach and relationship-building with non-traditional partners.

Lessons learned

Megan said Embrace Bend prioritizes paying stipends to community members for providing their expertise and sharing their lived experiences. This supports the organization’s commitment to equity. She encourages other Welcoming Week event organizers to incorporate speaker compensation into their planning as well.

Megan suggests focusing on events that have more than a one-time impact and events that build on previous event themes. The best events build partnerships and support the organization's long-term goals for a greater impact.

More examples of coalition-building:

St. Louis Mosaic Project’s 24 activities & events, City of Philadelphia diverse activities, Global Cleveland’s 30 events & 32 proclamations & resolutions from throughout Metro Cleveland

Thank you to Megan Perkins, board president of Embrace Bend & city council member at the City of Bend, Oregon, for sharing insights about this Welcoming Week event.