How we build welcoming communities as borders re-open (for some)

Ashoka Fellows bust myths and show why belonging begins with us.

3 min readSep 14, 2021


Courtesy of Welcoming America

After the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020, nearly all countries closed their borders. Though unprecedented, what followed has been a historical pattern repeating itself: the spread of disease became associated not only with international travel and migration, but with “foreigners.” With borders beginning to re-open for some, misinformation about immigrants is on the rise.

We caught up with two Ashoka Fellows: David Lubell, founder of Welcoming International, and Clara Jiménez Cruz, founder of to explore how we can rebuild welcoming communities, fight disinformation and introduce new narratives around migration. You can watch the full conversation here. Here are a few highlights:

The power of welcoming

Since 2006, Welcoming America and Welcoming International have been leading a quiet revolution in the world of immigrant integration, building towards a world where everyone feels at home. For David, it all started in 1999 when a family in Ecuador welcomed him with open arms while he lived and taught English there for a year. He came back to the U.S. understanding the power of welcoming wanting to spread a welcoming culture across the country and beyond. Here’s what that looks like in practice.

More ways than one to depolarize

It’s impossible to build a welcoming environment without also busting some myths. This is where Clara and her team at come in. The Madrid-based fact-checking media outlet leverages data journalism and community engagement to combat disinformation. They are increasingly focused on addressing disinformation surrounding migration, one of the most polarizing topics in Spain.

While is focused on some of the most polarized segments of society, the Welcoming network, targets those who are unsure about or untapped by the welcoming movement. With this segment, it’s not national data that tends to work but rather a focus on shared values and local stories.

Mobilizing young people to address hate speech

The greatest strength of is its community. To address the rise of hate speech in Spain, they’ve just launched a new app — No More Haters — that teaches young people to recognize hate speech and address it.

The future of migration

We’re already seeing it, and it’s only going to increase in coming years: climate change is set to become one of the primary causes of migration. Migration and refugee policies have not yet caught up to this reality.

David Lubell says that we need better migration policies.

For the fact checking community, climate change also raises a new challenge: how do you fact check the future?

On the verge of a tipping point?

Reflecting about the next five years, Clara foresees migration only growing in importance as a top political issue.

David agreed. He reminds us that a parallel tipping point is coming. The movement of welcoming communities is growing exponentially every year. A good reason to stay optimistic.

Listen to the full conversation here.

Follow Clara on Twitter: @maldita

Follow David on Twitter: @welcomingusa

For more on Ashoka’s work on migration click here

Ashoka is a community of almost 4,000 social entrepreneurs in 90+ countries and their networks of social entrepreneurs. Welcome Change is our weekly “news hour” with Ashoka Fellows on timely topics. See upcoming (and past) conversations here.




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