How would you bring 300 of the world’s religions together into an organization?

William Swing was wanted to bring the worlds religions together to create more peace, and end religious violence. When he approached the leaders of different religions to come together to create a collaborative organization, none of them wanted to do it. When he talked to the average person in the religion, they were more willing to work with other religions, but they were hesitant about having a leader who was associated with any particular religion. And he was also faced with the problem that when people of different religions get together they often get into big ethical fights.

So what was the solution? He, along with others, guided the collective in a process called Appreciative Inquiry. In this process the participants focus on what the religions could do together, as opposed to focusing on their differences. And they created a non-hierarchical organizational structure based on chaordic principles. 300 religions over a period of 3 years came together to create a charter for what they believed in. Each town, city could organize its own United Religion Initiative chapter, called Cooperation Circles, which were autonomous, self-run, and self-funded. They did not have to answer to an organization above, they only had to follow the rules of the charter. Different circles would come together with neighboring circles to collaborate. There were also larger global gatherings of all the circles. Today there are over 600 Cooperation Circles in over 80 countries of the world, and has done significant work in bridging the different religions.


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