Announcements / March 1, 2021

2021 IVLP Alumni Award for Social Innovation and Change Awarded to Environmental Leaders

We are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2021 Global Ties U.S. IVLP Alumni Decade of Social Innovation and Change AwardSaad Abid of Morocco and Raisa Banfield of Panama, both leaders working to combat climate change and protect the environment.

They will be featured speakers at the virtual Global Ties U.S. 2021 National Meeting and deliver remarks during the plenary session: “The Global Fight Against Climate Change & Environmental Degradation: A Celebration of IVLP Alumni.”


Saad Abid is an environmental activist, community organizer, national surfing champion, and 2016 participant of the U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) whose work is inspiring thousands of participants to take action to fight climate change. His many accomplishments include organizing beach cleanups, educating his more than 400,000 social media followers about environmental degradation, and encouraging community and youth activism to protect the environment.

“Saad encourages his followers to take action and practice sustainable tourism,” said Vicente López-Ibor Mayor, an IVLP alumnus and founder of the award, on how Saad is leveraging his prominent social media following to inspire civic participation and environmental activism. “He is also part of the Founders Group of the Climate Action Leadership Network [a group of 25 leading decision-makers working on climate change mitigation] and Founder of the Bahri Association.”

Saad credits his participation on the IVLP project, “Galvanizing Youth for Environmental Protection,” for helping to advance his work. His IVLP was programmed by Meridian International Center (Washington, DC), in coordination with four Global Ties U.S. Community-Based Members: Gulf Coast Diplomacy (Pensacola, FL), Global Ties San Francisco (San Francisco, CA), Northern Nevada International Center (Reno, NV), and GlobalPittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA).

In Washington, DC, Saad saw how a local organization leveraged partnerships to improve community health through activities in public parks. Inspired by this model, he launched a community initiative to clean up public beaches in Morocco. Since then, he has organized 67 beach cleanups involving more than 40,000 participants. He even holds a national record for a cleanup that included more than 5,400 participants.

For his demonstrated impact on the local community, effective application of his IVLP experience to fight climate change, and use of social media to inspire environmental activism in Morocco, we are honored to recognize Saad Abid at the Global Ties U.S. 2021 National Meeting with the IVLP Decade of Social Innovation and Change Award.


Raisa Banfield is an environmental activist, architect, educator, documentary filmmaker, and leading advocate for sustainable urbanization and environmental conservation.

In 2007, she participated on an IVLP project on “Urban Environmental Issues,” and visited six U.S. cities to learn about U.S. urbanization strategies, urban planning, and land management. Her IVLP was programmed by IIE (Washington, DC), in partnership with the New Orleans Citizen Diplomacy Council (New Orleans, LA), Global Ties Detroit (Detroit, MI), the International Institute of Wisconsin (Milwaukee, WI), Northern Nevada International Center (Reno, NV), and the World Affairs Council – Seattle (Seattle, WA).

“Raisa is an outstanding architect, urban planner, and former Vice Mayor of Panama City,” said Vicente. “Her work in the public sector has always been characterized by an innovative and sustainable vision, incorporating environmental concerns and the fight for the climate into the designs and urban planning elements.”

Raisa is dedicated to improving Panama’s urban communities and protecting the nature surrounding them. She co-founded and directed the Environmental Incidence Center (CIAM) from 2007 to 2010, and also founded Pasos Panamá (PASOS) to find alternatives for the sustainable development of natural resources for future generations. In 2010, she produced the documentary Our Plant to highlight Panama’s diverse natural resources and raise awareness about environmental education and action. She is also a producer and presenter on CONEXIÓN TIERRA, an environmental education program of the Fundación Panamá Sostenible (Sustainable Panama Foundation).

As Vice-Mayor of Panama City (2014 – 2019), Raisa led public participation in the development of urban spaces, and coordinated land management and sustainable use of natural resources. Now, as the Director of Sustainable Development for the Center for the Integration of Nature and Cities (CINC), she guides municipal plans and programming to protect natural resources, support resilient infrastructure, and sustain mobility throughout Panama.

Said Raisa, “In connecting with nature I have been able to reconnect with people around me and around the world, because we all have one common house: our planet.”

For her commitment to sustainable urbanization, passion for environmental education and conservation, and effective application of her IVLP experience to prevent environmental degradation while sustaining mobility throughout Panama, we are honored to recognize Raisa Banfield with the IVLP Alumni Decade of Social Innovation and Change Award at the Global Ties U.S. 2021 National Meeting

The Global Ties U.S. IVLP Decade of Social Innovation and Change Award recognizes an alumnus or alumna of the U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program for high achievements driving social change through innovation in their home communities. Thanks to the contributions of Vicente López-Ibor Mayor, an IVLP alumnus and Honorary President of Via-Circulo Jefferson in Spain, the award is generously granted annually at the Global Ties U.S. National Meeting.