Rob Corcoran is a trainer, facilitator, writer, racial healing practitioner and international consultant who has led workshops and dialogues among diverse and polarized groups across North America and in Europe, South Africa, India, Australia and Brazil. From 2006 to 2016 he served as US national director of Initiatives of Change International (IofC), a global network of people of all faiths and social backgrounds dedicated to building bridges of trust across racial, religious, political, and class lines. In 1993, he founded Hope in the Cities, IofC’s national flagship program, based in Richmond, Virginia, site of the nation’s largest interstate slave market and capital of the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Over three decades his team built a diverse network engaging all sectors and developed a nationally recognized model for dialogue, racial healing and partnership building.
The city has become a seedbed for honest dialogue and reconciliation with national and international implications. Richmond was the first US city to hold a public walk through its racial history and Virginia was the first state to apologize for its support of slavery. A sustained effort of dialogue, public forums and education engages city government, universities, business leaders, faith communities and nonprofit organizations. In recent years, Hope in the Cities initiated a metropolitan-wide campaign using census data and historical narrative to highlight how racialized policies have produced concentrated poverty. As a result, the city now hosts the nation’s first Office of Community Wealth Building.
Under Corcoran’s leadership, Hope in the Cities developed a residential fellowship program which has served community leaders from a dozen states. Key learning areas include: 1) The role of individuals in becoming authentic trustbuilders and agents of change; nurturing spiritual resources to sustain the work; 2) The power of history and memory in shaping community narratives and identity; creating spaces for healing and forgiveness; 3) Dialogue design to build trust and discern core issues; 4) Strategies to build diverse teams and networks across boundaries of race, culture, religion, and politics to build healthy, inclusive communities.
Corcoran has convened numerous national and international forums. He was a co-author of a dialogue guide for President Clinton’s race initiative. He consulted with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in the creation of its national Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation enterprise. He serves on the UNESCO Slave Route Project Task Force on Racial Healing, and the National Episcopal Church’s advisory committee for Beloved Community implementation.
Corcoran’s book, Trustbuilding: An Honest Conversation on Race, Reconciliation, and Responsibility, was published by University of Virginia Press. In his foreword, Governor (now Senator) Tim Kaine wrote, “Hope in the Cities has moved what looked like an immoveable barricade …. [and] has provided a map for the future.”
Initiatives of Change (IofC) has a hundred-year history of connecting personal and social change. In its early years, known as the Oxford Group, it provided the foundation for Alcoholics Anonymous. As Moral Re-Armament, it played a critical role in post-war Franco-German reconciliation, and in industrial relations in Europe and in the US. Today, IofC is at work in more than 40 countries with major conference centers in Switzerland and India. It involves people of all different faith traditions, cultures and socio-economic backgrounds.
Rob and wife, Susan, have three grown sons who all attended Richmond public schools. He and Susan now reside in Austin, Texas.
Previous clients include
- W.K. Kellogg Foundation
- City of Dayton, OH
- City of Selma, AL
- Bon Secours Health Systems
- Communities in Schools, Virginia
- City of Richmond, VA
- Duke University Divinity School
- John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation, Tulsa
“Rob Corcoran is a frontline soldier in the peacemaking battalion of racial healers and community trustbuilders. This metaphor is deliberate. The word soldier reflects the courage, determination and sacrifice that characterize Rob’s many decades of effective leadership and work to help heal entrenched divides in communities in America and around the world. He has created a model for helping to heal both historic and immediate trauma. His model has been adapted across the globe and has proven that it is possible change behaviors, hearts and minds.”
Gail C. Christopher, D.N., N.D.
Author and Social Agent, Executive Director of the National Collaboration for Health Equity
Board Chair, Trust for America’s Health
Former Senior Advisor and Vice President, W.K. Kellogg Foundation
“Anchored by a caring and powerful sense of purpose, Rob is one of the most inspiring and effective people I have met who exercises leadership in the field of racial healing and reconciliation. He works tirelessly building robust alliances that bridge racial boundaries, addressing the challenges of dialogue and repairing the racial divide. His work, which began in Richmond, is now having an impact across the United States and the world at large.”
Kennedy School of Leadership, Harvard
“Rob Corcoran is a passionate advocate for a world free from bigotry, hatred, racism and xenophobia. For him, this is not just wishful thinking—it’s a Christian calling and lifestyle. Using dialogue and racial reconciliation strategies, Rob teaches us how to build trust, find common ground and create democratic communities where everyone works together to build a better future. Rob leads by precept and example and works tirelessly where he lives, Richmond, Virginia, and with local officials and citizens across the globe interested in creating communities that respect our individual uniqueness and embrace our shared humanity. He helped communities where I lived begin to honestly address the racial, class and religious divides that paralyzed our ability to work together to solve shared community problems. I’m pleased to say these communities have created a culture of trust that makes them stronger, more resilient and better able to come together to tackle the wicked problems they face.”
Director of Exploratory Research, the Kettering Foundation
Former city manager of Dayton and Cincinnati
“In twenty-five years with The Faith & Politics Institute and Congressman John Lewis, I came to know a wide range of individuals and organizations working for racial healing and equity. Very few exhibited an understanding that lasting progress requires learning to reckon creatively with both history and historical memory. Rob Corcoran’s work in Richmond is a stellar exception.”
Rev. Doug Tanner
Funder and former chief executive, The Faith & Politics Institute, Washington, DC
“Rob Corcoran has shown the necessity—and, just as important, the possibility—of telling a community’s history honestly and inclusively without indulging in a mere exercise of guilt or blame. With grace and modesty, he has led.”
Edward L. Ayers
President Emeritus, University of Richmond