Sharif M. Abdullah

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Sharif M. Abdullah

"Sharif’s quest for a world for all began in the worst that America has to offer – Camden, New Jersey. His early life was a study in toxic relationships, including welfare, public housing, grinding poverty, near constant violence and a polluted environment.

"Sharif’s activist and empowerment background stretches back to the mid-‘60s, when he helped found the Black People's Unity Movement (BPUM), an organization dedicated to self-help and development in the inner city of Camden. As a teenager in the BPUM, Sharif participated in the creation of a sewing factory, two day-care centers, over 100 units of affordable housing, a supermarket, gas station and other economic development activities. Sharif’s early activist days included work with the Black Panther Party.

"Sharif received a BA in Psychology from Clark University in Massachusetts and went on to earn a juris doctor degree from Boston University. During his practice of law in North Carolina, Sharif’s clients ranged from indigent clients seeking better housing to successful businesspeople seeking new ways to serve their communities. It was during his law practice that Sharif received the first of several national awards for innovative self-help and community-empowerment activities.

"Despite these successes, Sharif became increasingly disillusioned with the adversarial process as a means of social change. After six years, Sharif left law practice, choosing a path to social change that is positive, inclusive and honors the dignity of all beings.

"In the ‘90s, Sharif’s focus shifted from physical development as a means of catalyzing community and spiritual development to working directly with inclusivity, empowerment and spiritual transformation.

"Although based in Portland, Oregon, Sharif’s work for an inclusive world has taken him to over 30 countries...

"South Asia: Working with Sarvodaya, a local Sri Lanka development organization, Sharif’s inclusivity work on the war-torn island of Sri Lanka helped to catalyze an historic ceasefire between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers. Sharif provided early focus, organization and activities for Sarvodaya’s Peace Secretariat and related peace activities. He helped to organize and provided content training for Sarvodaya’s first-ever Conflict Resolution Training for Muslim Leaders (2003). Sharif’s work with Sarvodaya has been supported by a number of funding sources, including the Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development (NFSD), the Rockefeller Foundation, the Fetzer Institute and others.

"Central Europe: In 1998, at the invitation of President Vaclav Havel, Sharif was one of 40 delegates to Forum 2000 held in Prague, Czech Republic. Sharif returned to Prague in June, 1999 as a workshop facilitator for Forum 2000, working with 100 college students from around the world. Also in 1999, Sharif was a keynote presenter at “The Century of Auschwitz,” a conference on genocide held in Krakow, Poland.

"Global: Sharif's international work includes consulting with the United Nations (Uganda) and being a keynote presenter and workshop leader for three years at The International Conflict Resolution Conference (Russia).

"Sharif is the Founder and Director of Commonway Institute, dedicated to the creation of a society that is in line with our deepest spiritual values – a global society that includes all peoples. Recognizing that we will not solve humanity’s global problems with the same attitudes, philosophies and consciousness that created the problems in the first place, Commonway teaches people how to shape a world that works for all...

"Sharif has worked with thousands of individuals and facilitated scores of inclusivity, empowerment and leadership sessions for various public and private organizations, including city and county governments, federal agencies like U.S. Forest Service and HUD, as well as large corporations like Freightliner Corporation. Sharif has been a keynote presenter and facilitated workshops for such organizations as Association for Humanistic Psychology, Institute of Noetic Sciences, Institute for Sustainable Development and others.

"For five years Sharif served as adjunct faculty at Marylhurst University, applying the principles of inclusivity for graduate students in business development and transformation. As a lecturer at the University of California - Berkeley, Sharif conducted interdisciplinary lectures in compassion, wisdom, spirituality and social justice. For over five years, Sharif has been an increasingly popular adjunct faculty member at Portland State University in the Philosophy/Conflict Resolution department." [1]

Sharif formerly served on the Board of Directors of the Positive Futures Network, which publishes YES! A Journal of Positive Futures. [2]

Awards and Recognitions

  • 2007 “Hero of Humanity Award”. The Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Award for Uplifting Human Values.
  • 2006 “Humanitarian Service Award”. The Unity and Diversity Council.
  • 1999 “Book of the Year Award”. The Independent Book Publishers Award in the field of current events, for “Creating a World That Works for All”.
  • Public-Private Partnership Award. For “Project Catalyst” (Charlotte, NC) from HUD in the Reagan Administration.
  • Community Empowerment Award. For “Cherry Community Organization” (Charlotte, NC) from President Jimmy Carter.


  • The Power of One: Authentic Leadership in Turbulent Times (New Society Publishers, 1995).
  • Creating a World That Works for All (Berrett-Kohler Publishers, 1999).

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch articles


  1. Sharif Abdullah, Commonway Institute, accessed January 2, 2009.
  2. Sharif M. Abdullah, Commonway, accessed January 2, 2009.