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About Sharif Abdullah 
....leadership for a new society... 

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Sharif  Abdullah
SHARIF ABDULLAH is a leading proponent and catalyst for inclusive social, cultural and spiritual transformation. He is currently founder and president of Commonway Institute, dedicated to the creation of a society that is in line with our deepest spiritual values -- a society that works for all. Commonway is designed to build inclusivity, understanding and civic engagement between diverse groups of people. sharif image 2
Sharif’s quest began in the worst that America has to offer: Camden, NJ.  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-Sixties, where he was a founder of the Black People’s Unity Movement (BPUM), an organization dedicated to self-help and development in the inner city of Camden, New Jersey.  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.  Several of his teenage projects are still in existence, providing employment and economic opportunity for over 35 years. 

Sharif was also a member of the Black Panther Party in Philadelphia, prior to his entry to college.  It was in the Black Panther Party that Sharif was exposed to the phrase “All Power to the People!”; a phrase that still empowers his life (although his notions of “power” and “people” have changed radically).

Sharif received a BA in Psychology from Clark University in Massachusetts (1974) and went on to earn a juris doctor degree from Boston University (1977).   During his practice of law in North Carolina, Sharif represented a variety of clients, ranging 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 (including a Rose Garden community development award at the White House). 

Despite these successes, Sharif became increasingly disillusioned with the adversarial process as a means of reaching an inclusive community.  After practicing law in Charlotte, North Carolina for six years, Sharif left the practice of law, choosing a path to social change that is positive, inclusive and honors the dignity of all beings.

The Work:
In the 90’s, Sharif’s focus shifted from physical development as a means of catalyzing community and spiritual development to working with inclusivity, empowerment and spiritual transformation directly.  Sharif has worked with thousands of individuals and facilitated scores of transformation, empowerment and leadership sessions for various public and private organizations, including city and county governments, federal agencies like US Forest Service and HUD, international bodies like The United Nations, and Sarvodaya Shramadana and large corporations like Freightliner Corporation. 

Commonway’s major project, the Three Valleys Project, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, catalyzed inclusive community in the small agricultural towns surrounding Portland, Oregon.

Sharif served for five years as adjunct faculty at Marylhurst University, applying the principles of inclusivity for graduate students in business development and transformation.  Sharif also served as a lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley and University of Michigan, conducting interdisciplinary lectures in compassion, wisdom, spirituality and social justice.  Sharif currently is an adjunct faculty member at Portland State University, in the Philosophy/ Conflict Resolution department.

In addition, Sharif has facilitated workshops with organizations like Association for Humanistic Psychology, Institute of Noetic Sciences, the International Conflict Resolution Conference, Institute for Sustainable Development, and others.  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 of 1999 as a workshop facilitator for the student portion of Forum 2000.  Also in 1999, Sharif was a keynote presenter at “The Century of Auschwitz”, a conference on genocide held in Krakow, Poland.

While based in Portland, Oregon, Sharif’s work for an inclusive world has criss-crossed the world, traveling to over a two dozen foreign countries, including:

Czech Republic (X4)
England (X3)
Germany (X4)
Poland  (X2)
Russia  (X3)
China (X2)
Indonesia (X2)
New Zealand
Sri Lanka (X7)
Brazil  (X2)
Canada  (X5)
Cuba (X3)
Mexico  (X5)
Current Work:
Sharif has worked in Sri Lanka for the past few years, helping that war-torn island end its two decades long civil/ethnic/religious/class war.  While in Sri Lanka, Sharif works with Sarvodaya Shramadana, a 40-year-old self-help development organization based on Gandhian and Buddhist non-violent principles. 
Sharif is the author of The Power of One:  Authentic Leadership in Turbulent Times.  Originally published in 1991, the first edition was 50 copies printed at Kinko’s.  It has gone on to become an enduring “classic”.  The revised third edition is published by New Society Publishers.

Sharif is also author of Creating a World That Works For All (Berrett-Kohler Publishers, 1999).  “Creating” has been named “Book of the Year” (Current Events) by the Independent Booksellers Association.

In addition, he has published many articles on the subjects of values, personal and cultural transformation and empowerment. Sharif's work has been featured in a number of books and publications, including The Rise of the Intelligent Organization, A House Divided, A Cultural Diversity Sourcebook, and Bridging the Racial Divide.


Sharif has served on numerous boards and commissions, including Chair of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Minority Affairs Commission (1988-90), the Federal Home Loan Bank Housing Advisory Board (1990-92), Chair of the Portland Affordable Rental Housing Commission (1992-95), and on the Association for Humanistic Psychology (1993-95).  Sharif was a Founding Board member of the Positive Futures Network, which publishes YES! A Journal of Positive Futures.   Sharif is currently on the Advisory Board for Friends of Trees.
Personal Life, Hobbies and Interests:
Sharif has three daughters, two grandsons and one goldfish.  He is a voracious reader, focusing mainly on the past (biographies and histories) and the future (science fiction).  His interests include flutes and digital photography.