Network Innovation Spotlight / December 16, 2020

Fostering Dialogue & Connection Through Cooking

By Andrea Vanessa Castillo, Program and Administrative Coordinator, WorldOregon

AndreaThe onset of COVID-19 challenged programmers across the country to create a space for our local and global communities to continue fostering meaningful dialogue and connection. Based on the incredible Network-wide efforts to transition to virtual programming – and considering that we in Portland are a pretty “Foodie” community – our International Visitor Program (IVP) team at WorldOregon jumped on the idea of hosting a virtual cooking series.

As we developed this virtual program, our priority was to make sure this cooking course aligned our organization’s mission, fit the needs of our community, and upheld spirit of two-way exchanges in this program. Our goals were to sustain and build our home-hosting community during the pandemic; familiarize people who haven’t previously engaged with IVP with our program and staff; and provide an opportunity for exchange program alumni to reconnect with our community.

“Tastes of the World” was a four-week-long virtual cooking series led by incredible exchange program alumni who visited Oregon. These 90-minute, cook-along-side-us sessions featured popular recipes from Belize, Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, and Pakistan.

For Network members interested in standing up such a program, our team suggests the following tips:

  • Schedule your events around the communities you want to participate;
  • Send out materials (ingredients, feedback survey links, etc.) to attendees a week in advance;
  • Hold a virtual meeting with each presenter a few days prior to the program to align on expectations;
  • Build connections with local professional resources by collaborating with them to host and advertise the series.

Based on the success of our first four sessions, we plan to make Tastes of the World an annual series to continue strengthening ties between members of our community through and beyond the pandemic. You can learn more about the presenters by reading through WorldOregon’s Citizen Diplomacy Map and watching the programs on our YouTube channel.