Shariff Abdullah -- Extended Biography

Shariff Abdullah --- A Biography

Shariff’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.

Shariff’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, Shariff 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. Shariff’s early activist days included work with the Black Panther Party.

Shariff 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, Shariff’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 Shariff received the first of several national awards for innovative self-help and community-empowerment activities.

Despite these successes, Shariff 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, Shariff’s focus shifted from physical development as a means of catalyzing community, to working directly with inclusivity, empowerment and spiritual transformation.

International Work

Although based in Portland, Oregon, Shariff’s work for an inclusive world has taken him to over 43 countries including:


Czech Republic (x4)
England (x4)
Germany (x4)
Poland (x2)
Russia (x4)
Switzerland (x3)


Bahrain (x3)
China (x2)
Indonesia (x5)
Nepal (x2)
New Zealand
Sri Lanka (x20)
Thailand (x6)


Brazil (x2)
Canada (x6)
Cuba (x5)
Mexico (x5)
Trinidad & Tobago

as well as numerous locations within the United States.

South Asia:

Working with Sarvodaya, a local Sri Lanka development organization, Shariff’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. Shariff 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). Shariff’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, Shariff was one of 40 delegates to Forum 2000 held in Prague, Czech Republic. Shariff 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, Shariff was a keynote presenter at “The Century of Auschwitz,” a conference on genocide held in Krakow, Poland.


Shariff'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).

Shariff and Commonway

Shariff 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.

The core of Commonway’s work is inclusivity, the concept that all of our lives are inextricably linked, one to the other. Commonway consults with organizations and individuals regarding the concept and practice of inclusivity.

Shariff 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. Shariff 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.

Academic Positions

For five years Shariff 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, Shariff conducted interdisciplinary lectures in compassion, wisdom, spirituality and social justice. Currently, Shariff is an adjunct faculty member at Portland State University in the Philosophy/Conflict Resolution department.

Awards and Recognitions

Shariff’s awards and recognitions include:

2009 "Champion of Peace, Reconciliation and Forgiveness Award. New Thought Center for Spiritual Living.
2009 “Martin Luther King Lifetime Achievement Award”. World Arts Foundation.
2008 “Sarvodaya Vishvamitra (Universal Friend) Award”. Sarvodaya Shramadana organization.
2007 “Hero of Humanity Award”. The Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Award for Uplifting Human Values (presented by the Art of Living Foundation).
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”.
1988 "Public-Private Partnership Award". For “Project Catalyst” (Charlotte, NC) from HUD in the Reagan Administration.
1980 "Community Empowerment Award". For “Cherry Community Organization” (Charlotte, NC) from President Jimmy Carter.