Connecting Communities Across Virginia

One Conversation at a Time

Our nation faces a growing divide over values, culture, and economics.
These divisions exist across geography, income level, race, gender, & political beliefs.

Our mission is to foster strong, meaningful relationships with and between communities across Virginia. In doing so, we hope to authentically reintegrate the voices and visions of diverse community stakeholders into the local political process through persistent outreach, listening, and engagement.


To authentically reintegrate the voices and visions of diverse Arlington stakeholders into the local community process through persistent outreach, listening and engagement. 

Our work includes: 

  • Meeting and engaging a diversity of local residents and community influencers, including those of all ethnicities, ages, incomes, neighborhoods, and professional, personal and political pursuits
  • Attendance and active outreach at festivals, civic meetings and other events in the community
  • Listening, connecting and facilitating creative problem-solving among area stakeholders.
  • Mobilizing communities to greater social advocacy through collaboration and finding common ground
  • Enhancing community participation in political organizations, county/state commissions and boards, and local and national elections

Beyond Arlington

Our Beyond Arlington initiative takes us to rural and urban counties throughout Virginia. We engage in deep meaningful conversations with Democrats, Republicans and Independents. We listen, learn and try to find common ground…

…. often we find that there is more that binds us than divides us.

From Selma to Stonewall

“From Selma to Stonewall: Are We There Yet?“ (“Selma to Stonewall”) is a documentary that explores the intersectionality of race, sexual orientation, gender identity, and religion.  It jumps off from the Civil Rights Movement in Selma, AL and the Gay Rights Movement that started at Stonewall in NYC, and lands right in the crossroads of today’s most explosive issues.

Building Bridges members have served as an Associate Producer, DC Screening organizers, Panel interviewees and documentary promoters.  Our motto is Building Bridges… One Conversation at at Time… and, this film and panel discussion was a rich myriad of healing and hopeful conversations about actions we can each take… to help tear down the walls of discrimination and to melt away the paralyzing polarization in our society. 

When our collective voices all come together…
it will be resounding. 

What is so remarkable about the film’s screenings and panel discussions across the country (i.e., from San Francisco to New York to Washington, DC) is the powerful social change that takes hold when we respectfully and vulnerably share our unique experiences and histories. These authentic and engaging conversations warm our hearts… as we witness a deep empathy emerging among people we “perceive to be different” yet, who find rich understandings and common ground with one another.

“Selma to Stonewall” marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.  Following each screening is an action-focused dialogue among experienced leaders/activists about the intersectional strategies for today.  This humorous, thoughtful and inspiring time of storytelling and justice-carving affirms the work of longtime activists and inspires new leaders to get involved with the present day issues of social justice.

Later this year, we are producing a trigger film of Washington, DC’s panel discussion that can be used freely by social activists around the country and the world.  And our ultimate goal is to promote healing dialogues and tangible actions on a variety of social justice issues of our day.  Please join in and share “Selma to Stonewall” with others in your circles. 

Martin Luther King meant it when he said,
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

NAuck historic preservation

What started as a Building Bridges conversation with Arlington’s historic Nauck neighborhood, quickly transformed into a historic preservation partnership between Building Bridges, CARE Inc. Nauck Community Archives & Resource Center, and the Arlington County Public Library.

Nauck is a historic African American Community, drawing its roots from Freedman’s Village, established after the Civil War in Arlington following the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. The story of Nauck is a story of community, of partnership, entrepreneurship, integration and unity. A closely knit neighborhood, Nauck is also home to four notable churches, two of which celebrated their 150th anniversary last year. The history of Nauck is the history of Arlington and warrants preservation.

In February 2017, we collectively held a fundraiser that was attended by more than 80 people and brought in more than $3000 for this initiative. The money is being used to digitize historic records and showcase Nauck’s rich history. Our first digitized photo exhibit on the Life of John Robinson was featured at Nauck’s Feel the Heritage Festival in 2017.

Collage of historic Nauck images
Green Valley Remembered Festival
Portia Clarke, Community Leader in Nauck, thanking everyone for supporting the Nauck Green Valley Remembered fundraiser
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Bridging Political Divides

we started with a letter...

“Dear Madam/Sir,

Good Morning!  My name is Vivek. I am a biotech professional working for PerkinElmer Inc. a health technology-focused company.  I live in Arlington VA and am deeply involved with my community through volunteerism, serving on our economic development commission and managing outreach for our local Democratic committee.

My letter to you comes not as a member of a political party, but as a private citizen and founder of an outreach group known as “Building Bridges.”  Our mission is to reach out and develop personal connections — with diverse individuals and groups and to forge strong and meaningful relationships built on trust, shared values and common ground. As we reach out to communities across Virginia, we are mindful that while we may be miles and cultures apart, we share many of the same values and interests that make our great Commonwealth our cherished home.

And, in that capacity and spirit, I would humbly ask if I could come visit with you in ____ County to listen and to learn more about your life and your community. 

Just as a bit of background, I would like to share a little about my life-story and my hopes for our meeting one another in the near future. I came to the United States from India more than 18 years ago and have lived in several towns and cities across America – from sea to shining sea.  While spending most of those wonderful and formative years in the mid-West (Indiana and Ohio), I am really pleased to have found my home here in this great Commonwealth of Virginia.

One of the reasons I began “Building Bridges” was because, for most of my life I’ve surrounded myself with like-minded people with similar life experiences, and many who tend to agree with my own opinions and politics. I doubt that I’m alone in this thinking, as we have become a deeply divided country — in which our kindred communities have sadly, stopped talking and reaching out to one another.  I think we both can agree that this election vividly under-scored just how differently we think about our great nation, our values and about each other. Speaking for myself, I feel I could certainly do a better job of reaching out to those who have different life narratives and experiences, and really understand the remarkable mosaic of communities that make our Commonwealth truly special. After all, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others”, Philippians 2:4-8.

My hope for “Building Bridges” is that forging long-term bonds within different communities across our state will eventually help us identify community problems — and, then, to work together collaboratively to find viable (economic, educational, and societal) solutions that are mutually beneficial to serve and support us all. For instance, are their opportunities to work together to create job opportunities that don’t just benefit urban corridors and skilled workers, but broadly stimulate job creation in every corner of our state by creating business innovation, a favorable tax environment and economic development culture here in Virginia.

In summary, I would therefore feel very grateful to come visit with you in _______ County and learn more about your life and your community. I would be honored to share a meal with you and spend a day in fellowship and friendship, learning about your lives, your values and your stories. While we may have some differences geographically and politically, I strongly believe that we have so much more that binds us than separates us — particularly in our love of our country and our desire to care for and protect our families and our cherished Commonwealth.

Please let me know if you are open to the idea of my visiting you and, perhaps attending your church (or, even a Republican Party meeting).  And, I would also like to extend the same courtesy to you, if you would be interested in visiting us here in Northern Virginia. Thank you for considering my request. I am very grateful for your time. God bless you, your family and our great nation!




Since the letter, we’ve been invited out to visit GOP/Tea Party Leaders in a few counties across Virginia, attended a Tea Party Picnic and dined with conservatives. We’ve made friends, found ways to have honest dialogue and find common ground.

Take a look at our gallery of photos and videos taken at our events. These remind us to stay positive that what we do here at Building Bridges, Arlington VA really does make a difference. We are thrilled to have great memories of all the fun times we spent while promoting meaningful change in our communities. See for yourself.

in the News

Building Bridges wins Arlington County's 2017 James B. Hunter Humanitarian Award

November 20,2017

The Story of Building Bridges

September 2017

Talking about the foundation of building bridges, the Why and the How? 

Building Bridges and Creating a Statewide Green-Tech Economic Vision for Virginia

June 26,2017

Check out a YouTube Video that links Building Bridges with a new Green-Tech Economic Vision for VA

May 30,2019

From Selma to Stonewall: Are We There Yet?“ (“Selma to Stonewall”) is a documentary that explores the intersectionality of race, sexual orientation, gender identity, and religion.  It jumps off from the Civil Rights Movement in Selma, AL and the Gay Rights Movement that started at Stonewall in NYC, and lands right in the crossroads of today’s most explosive issues.

Watch the trailer here!

September 14, 2016

Vivek uses a relationship-based – or Civity-based – approach to building community. This is in contrast to how political parties generally reach out to community members. His hope is that he can bridge divides and help people on opposite sides of the political spectrum see commonality in each other and then work together to solve the pressing issues facing their communities.

Partner Organizations

Many organizations are already doing amazing work strengthening our bonds of community and advocating for inclusivity and respect. Here are a few organizations we are working with:


A conversational podcast with people from different backgrounds discussing how the recent U.S. political climate has directly affected them, and how past experiences have shaped their current views and opinions.


Jane Franklin Dance celebrates movement and makes dance accessible to a wide range of audiences through public performance, dance education, community engagement and collaborations with artists.


Civity bridges divides to strengthen communities through a culture of deliberately engaging in relationships of respect and empathy with others who are different.


Launched in 2016, Better Angels is a bipartisan citizen’s movement to unify our divided nation. By bringing red and blue Americans together into a working alliance, we’re building new ways to talk to one another, participate together in public life, and influence the direction of the nation.


Cook Ross provides powerful solutions to organizations around the world in the areas of diversity, inclusion, cultural competency, leadership development, and organizational change management

Meet Our Members

Jan Canterbury

Jan Canterbury is an Environmental Scientist who worked at USEPA for over 25 years on issues ranging from rehabilitation of the Peregrine Falcon on the East Coast to education on Global Climate Change. Jan has also co-facilitated trainings on social issues such as Racial Reconciliation, Eco-Theology, Eco-Comedy and LGBTQ counseling at Whitman Walker Clinic. Currently, Jan is working on a building bridges initiative to promote arts and civic engagement through the Jane Franklin Modern Dance Company (JFD). JFD is a vibrant part of the Northern Virginia cultural community and uses a multi-discipline approach to make dance accessible to a wide range of audiences (of all ages and profiles). The relevant themes of cultural diversity, ecology, migration, and breaking down barriers in our society align creatively with our goals of Building Bridges. Plus, each event is beautiful and fun to attend. Contact Jan Canterbury if you want to play with us.

Vivek R. Shinde Patil, Ph.D.

​Vivek is the co-founder and Director of AscentVirginia, Inc., a social impact venture focused on promoting clean technology jobs and economic development in Virginia. He is an experienced life science entrepreneur having founded two biotech startups and has consulted with several biopharma companies. He is presently employed at PerkinElmer, Inc. leading global scientific teams to advance their human and environmental health mission. He has a PhD in Chemical Engineering from Ohio University and a public policy degree from Johns Hopkins University.

Ann Delorey

Ann Delorey works in interfaith relations with a focus on dialogue and social justice. She is a trained volunteer moderator with Better Angels, a non-profit organization working to unite America by bringing together people who differ politically to build bridges of understanding and find common ground. Ann offers skills training in talking across the political divide and workshops that bring politically diverse groups together to get to know each other beyond stereotypes.

Kayla Sykes

Kayla Sykes founded the Community Voices: We're Listening podcast, which provides a series of interviews with people from different backgrounds to discuss how the recent U.S. political climate has directly affected them and how past experiences have shaped their current views and opinions. The purpose of this podcast is to spread understanding, awareness, and empathy by offering the opportunity to listen to those with different viewpoints than your own. This podcast serves as a media tool for the Building Bridges team to share our events, conversations, and stories with a broader audience. To learn more, visit the podcast website at and follow the podcast team on Instagram @communityvoicespod.

Pablo Moulden

Pablo Moulden, a Building Bridges volunteer, grew up in Vienna, VA. He is currently working to require medically accurate sexual health education in Virginia schools through state legislation. Diagnosed with HIV at 17 years old, he is also an HIV awareness & prevention activist. He has spoken over 60 times with two nonprofits (NOVAM & NovaSalud) at 17 schools and institutions in Northern Virginia speaking about his HIV status and sex education. He has also spoken on various panels at James Madison University and George Washington University on HIV and LGBT+ related topics. He also spoke on a panel at George Washington University's 2017 HIV Summit. As of now his speaking has reached 2,800 grade school students, school faculty, university students and social workers. Recently he organized a team, including other Building Bridges volunteers, for the 2017 Walk to End HIV (fundraiser for Whitman-Walker Health). Pablo recruited 13 participants and collectively the team raised $1,580 for the walk. Currently he serves as a member on Whitman-Walker Health's Community Advisory Board and has been invited to join the DC Center for AIDS Research Community Advisory Board.