About Welcoming International

Welcoming International is a coalition of initiatives advancing inclusion in localities worldwide. For more information about the Welcoming Network, see “What we do“.

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Significant milestones.

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Photo credit: Nebraska Appleseed

Representatives of Welcoming America are invited by German cities, through The German Marshall Fund, to exchange ideas and practices around the advancement of local migrant and refugee inclusion as well as social cohesion and “WillkommensKultur” or Welcoming Culture. This initial contact leads to ever-increasing ties between Welcoming America member cities and German cities.

The Scanlon Foundation and Welcoming Australia (previously Welcome to Australia) – already leaders of a strong welcoming movement in Australia – connect with Welcoming America about their planned launch of a Welcoming Cities program in Australia. A partnership between Welcoming America and Welcoming Australia is formalized, and Welcoming America attends the launch of Welcome to Australia’s Welcoming Cities program in 2016. This partnership represents an important milestone in the formalization of Welcoming International.

Welcoming America joins a coalition of U.S. and German-based institutions to launch the three-year Welcoming Communities Transatlantic Exchange (WCTE). This comprehensive exchange program, which connects multiple actors from 36 cities in Germany and the U.S. over three years, lays the groundwork for a larger-scale local inclusion effort in Germany.

Immigration New Zealand, an agency of the New Zealand national government, launches its Welcoming Communities program after meeting Welcoming leaders in the U.S. and Australia. New Zealand was the first national government to launch a Welcoming program.

The Welcoming International initiative is formally launched, with Welcoming America taking the lead on coordination of the global coalition. Welcoming America taps its founder, David Lubell, to lead the effort. Later in the year, David relocates to Berlin, Germany. 

In the second half of 2018, two German institutions – the Bertelsmann Foundation and Phineo – establish the program Weltoffene Kommunen (“World open Cities and Communities”), and join Welcoming International as Founding Members. In September, Welcoming International hosts its inaugural gathering in Berlin, attended by all national members of the global coalition.

Later that year, Welcoming International begins working with Inclusive Cities, an initiative of Oxford University’s Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), who later joins as a founding member of Welcoming International.


  • Inclusive Cities Program/ COMPAS becomes a founding member of Welcoming International. 
  • Weltoffene Kommune Program receives funding to scale their initiative into 40 German cities through the financial support of the Government of Germany.
  • Welcoming Communities New Zealand receives funding from the National Government of New Zealand to scale to “half the town and city councils of New Zealand (press release).” 



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David Lubell

Founding Director of Welcoming International & Founder of Welcoming America

David Lubell is an accomplished social entrepreneur and a leader of the global movement of welcoming and inclusive communities. In 2009, David founded, and became the Executive Director, of the acclaimed NGO Welcoming America. In 2018, David shifted his full-time focus to the organization's international efforts as the Founding Director of the Welcoming International Initiative.

He leads this initiative from Berlin, Germany.The Welcoming International Initiative partners with entities across the world who want to build bottom-up movements for immigrant and refugee welcoming in their countries. The initiative is now supporting rapidly expanding efforts in Australia, Canada, Germany, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, and the U.K. 

David is also the founder, and former Executive Director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC), which has grown into a model for immigrant rights organizing throughout the U.S. At TIRRC, David helped found the Welcoming Tennessee Initiative, the model for what is now Welcoming America.

A Wesleyan University graduate, David received a master’s degree in public administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He is a recipient of several prestigious social entrepreneurship fellowships, including those from Ashoka, Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation and Harvard. He is also a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, and was named to the 2016 Chronicle of Philanthropy’s 40 under 40 list. In 2017, David was awarded The Charles Bronfman Prize, which recognizes one young humanitarian annually whose work is inspired by their Jewish values and is of universal benefit to all people.

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Vanja Pantic-Oflazoglu

International Program Manager

Vanja works closely with civic and government institutions from around the world to create policies, programs, and practices that are welcoming of refugees and immigrants. She believes we’re all changemakers when it comes to creating stronger, more inclusive communities for everyone.

Vanja Pantic-Oflazoglu works with civic and government institutions from around the world in an effort to create more inclusive and welcoming localities everywhere, for everyone.

Prior to joining Welcoming America as its International Program Manager, Vanja worked on initiatives related to migration, peace-building, and social inclusion in Bosnia, Switzerland, and Turkey. She has contributed to projects ranging from migrants’ labor rights and rural migrant women’s social inclusion, to post-war reconciliation and monitoring of global human rights standards.

Vanja holds a B.A. in International Relations and Political Science from Boston University, and was inducted into its Scarlet Key Honor Society in recognition of her community service. She is a recipient of several awards and fellowships, having been named a Fulbright Scholar, Posse Scholar, Post-Conflict Research Center Fellow, a 30 Under 30 Georgia Center for Nonprofits Leader, and an Aspen Ideas Festival Scholar.

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