Exchange Matters / May 2, 2023

2023 IVLP Alumni Award for Social Innovation and Change Finalists 

Each year, Global Ties U.S. recognizes alumni of the U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) for high achievements in driving social change through innovation in their communities. Thanks to the contributions of Vicente López-Ibor Mayor, an IVLP alumnus and Global Ties U.S. Advisory Council Member, the award is generously granted annually at the Global Ties U.S. National Meeting. 

The 2023 IVLP Alumni Award recognized IVLP alumni in Europe who have demonstrated social innovation and global leadership in the areas of democratic engagement and civic renewal, with special consideration given to nominees addressing these topics in relation to Ukraine. The slate of nominees included IVLP alumni working in a variety of fields, ranging from social justice to education advocacy. 

The 2023 Global Ties U.S. IVLP Alumni Award for Social Innovation and Change recipient was Anass Hanafi of Italy, with an honorable mention to Jona Rizvanolli of Albania, two leaders who have worked hard to mentor young people and support the advancement and integration of Afghan and Ukrainian refugees, immigrants, and other underserved populations within their communities. 

Continue reading to learn about the other eight finalists and the extraordinary ways they are making a difference in their communities. 

Kamran Azizli – 2021 IVLP Alumni, Azerbaijan  

Kamran Azizli is a community leader and activist dedicated to increasing civic participation among marginalized groups and empowering the LGBTQI+ community in Azerbaijan to participate in political and economic decision-making. Kamran is the co-founder and resource development manager at Baku Community Space, a youth resource center that provides a safe space for freedom of expression and civic education. He is also the founder of the Q Collective Initiative, which helps strengthen the Azerbaijani LGBTQI+ community by addressing local issues such as economic, social, and cultural discrimination and alienation and provides LGBTQI+ community members with psychosocial support and training.   

Based on the models of advocacy and collaboration he witnessed during his 2021 IVLP project “LGBTQI+ Civil Society Organizations Operating in Challenging Environments,” Kamran successfully launched “Queer Academy,” which provides training for young activists in Azerbaijan. He also involved his fellow IVLP alumni in a four-day public seminar series, “Nothing for Us Without Us,” to publicly discuss LGBTQI+ issues during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.   

The project manager for the USAID-funded Baku Community Space said of Kamran, “What makes him stand out from others is his commitment and ability to … create coalitions and bring people from different backgrounds and ideas to the same team.  He has done it many times and will be doing it in the future. This makes him very valuable for Azerbaijani civil society.” 

OLESIA DMYTRIIEVA – 2018 IVLP Alumna, Ukraine 

A broadcaster for M Radio in Sloviansk and Kyiv, Ukraine, Olesia Dmytriieva is dedicated to flooding the environment with uplifting stories about love, kindness, faith, and family. Prior to starting her radio career, Olesia was a professor of English language and culture at Donbas State Pedagogical University for almost 20 years, and has taught American Studies in the U.S. Embassy’s English Access Micro-Scholarship Program and volunteered with the embassy-supported “Window on America” resource center in Sloviansk. She was named by Sloviansk News in 2021 as one of the Eight Outstanding Women of Sloviansk for her commitment to improving her local community.  

Olesia is a 2018 alumna of the IVLP project, ”American Pluralism – Politics, Policy, and Economics.” Of the program, Olesia said, “My IVLP experience did the most important thing for me: it showed me the bigger picture of the world with its failures and victories, made me feel more responsible and active, and inspired me to act in order to create the beautiful future I want for my country in the midst of the dark reality Ukraine faces today.” Olesia is doing just that. With the help of international partners, she launched a project in 2021 aimed at empowering and uniting civilian and military women from the east of Ukraine through in-person and online meetings, group and individual work with psychologists, and the exchange of visits between those serving on the military bases and those living in civilian areas.  

Olesia is also harnessing the power of media to share more optimistic stories during difficult times. Through a project supported by the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, she developed 100 episodes of a podcast that teaches English language through interviews with soldiers and residents in the conflict zone who tell encouraging stories. She hopes to be at the forefront of creating a healing media environment for post-war Ukraine. 

DALIA GRINFELD – 2012 IVLP Alumna, Germany 

Dalia Grinfeld is the Associate Director for European Affairs for the Anti-Defamation League of Germany, where she develops and manages anti-bias and workplace diversity programs in corporate and civil society contexts. She previously served as policy advisor to the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. 

An alumna of the 2012 IVLP project “Racial, Ethnic, & Religious Diversity in the United States,” Dalia says that a conversation in Detroit with Muslim activists expressing gratitude to the local Jewish community inspired her to prioritize advocating for and with other marginalized communities and that the program introduced her to the value of international approaches that shape her work to this day. She incorporated these principles in 2017 when she co-founded the Jewish Student Union of Germany, which has grown to more than 25,000 students and a structure to support five local unions.  

From engaging as a Fellow at the UN Alliance of Civilizations and the MENA-Europe-U.S. coalition on countering discrimination and racism to building coalitions between Jews and Muslims in Germany and Europe to developing intersectional DEIA programs, Dalia continues to lead and innovate in her local and global community. 

JAKUB MALAČKA – 2019 IVLP Alumni, Czech Republic 

Jakub Malačka holds concurrent positions as Senior Architect of Information Systems for the Public Secotr at GORDIC Company, Ltd. and as Financial Committee Chairman for the City of Znojmo in the Czech Republic. Committed to public service, he previously served as mayor of Znojmo from 2020 to 2022 and as deputy mayor from 2018 to 2020.  

Jakub participated in the 2019 IVLP project,Economic Revitalization Through Public Private Partnerships.” He states that his IVLP meetings in Washington, DC, San Antonio, Cleveland, and Boston inspired him during his years as mayor and deputy mayor to harness public-private partnerships to strengthen Znojmo’s economy, to create jobs for its citizens, and to develop and improve the social services provided by the city.  Following the examples of the PPP projects presented during the IVLP, Jakub led the city to renew contracts with private companies and develop new relationships with non-governmental organizations.

When the war in Ukraine broke out, Jakub was well-positioned to respond to the flow of refugees into the region. He proposed city donations to provide humanitarian aid, partnered with the NGO Charita to establish accommodations with mas s capacity, established a program to raise of volunteers, and led arrangements to make sure Ukrainian children could integrate into schools with Czech children and parents had the opportunity to find work. Jakub is committed to working with the private sector and civil society to continue to improve his local community.   

EHSAN RAFIEE – 2018 IVLP Alumni, The Netherlands and Iran   

A web developer and IT manager, Ehsan Rafiee has demonstrated leadership in his local and global community through his work as Director of the JoopeA Foundation in Amsterdam, whose mission is to advance the rights of minorities, including members of the LGBTQI community.   

Ehsan is a 2018 IVLP alumni of the project, “Advancing Minority Rights.” He emphasizes that learning about the history of minority rights and the experiences of equal rights activists in the United States helped inspire him to empower minorities, immigrants, and refugees to actively participate in the Netherlands and in Europe.  

After returning from the IVLP, he led JoopeA to set up training to empower newcomers, create a magazine devoted to lifting the voices of Black and bicultural immigrants from Africa in Europe, and provide support to businesses and nonprofits founded by immigrants and members of marginalized groups. Ehsan said, “We aim to transform society’s rules for the rights and betterment of minorities.  Even though we are not a big foundation, we intend to work in a beautiful way to make a long-lasting impact on the community in which we live.” 

TOMAS SCUKA – 2020 IVLP Alumni, Czech Republic 

Tomas Scuka has dedicated his work to advancing the rights, access, and integration of Roma minorities in Europe. He is currently the Chairman of the Working Group for Roma Youth and Other EU Policies at the Inter-Ministerial Commission for Roma Community Affairs, where he represents Roma society to address issues such as segregated schools and works to increase active participation of Roma youth in democratic processes. In addition to his vast experience in the European Parliament, policy, and public security, Tomas is the Founder and Vice President of the NGO “Romani Hub” and has engaged actively to educate the public through media interviews and publications. 

Tomas participated in the 2020 IVLP project, “Global Moment in Time: Reflections on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Accessibility.”  He credits the IVLP with inspiring him to develop inclusive, cross-community education and helping him effectively participate in the EU’s decision-making process on issues related to human rights.  

When refugees from Ukraine began to pour into the Czech Republic, Tomas developed networks of volunteers and organizations to provide humanitarian aid and help ensure that refuges of Roma descent received the same dignified conditions as others. He continues to lift his own voice to call on public authorities to address the situation of Roma refuges, mentor and tutor Roma children, and educate the public on how to improve the rights of Roma citizens in the local and European community.   

Konstantin Shteyn – 2019 IVLP Alumni, Ukraine  

Konstantin Shteyn is a media and advertising professional with more than 20 years of experience in Russia and Ukraine. A native of Ukraine with strong Ukrainian roots, Konstantin fled Russia immediately after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, moving first to Armenia and later to Georgia. He is currently an entrepreneur providing digital advertising and consulting services in Batumi, Georgia, and is also the Founder and CEO of Blitz Technologies of Yerevan, Armenia.  

Konstantin participated in the 2019 IVLP “Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists: New & Broadcast Media.” Since the war against Ukraine started, he has harnessed his expansive media skills and his IVLP experience to support Ukrainian refugees. In addition to providing humanitarian assistance, Konstantin is applying his media expertise to provide knowledge, training, education, and networking capabilities to support young people from Ukraine in gaining digital media skills and secure sustainable employment regardless of where they are in the world.  

To achieve this mission, Konstantin is working with a Georgian colleague to launch the non-governmental organization “Talkvesi,” which means “a great help” or “a devoted friend” in Georgian, in order to build networks and collaborations.  Konstantin continues to provide updates to and seek advice from his IVLP cohort and other IVLP alumni as he leads the way to improve his local and global community. 

ANOUK VOS – 2017 IVLP Alumna, The Netherlands 

Anouk Vos is a Founding Partner and Cyber Security and Innovation Lead at RevNext: Technology Driven Strategies, a strategic consulting firm focusing on high-tech issues and solutions. She has years of experience as a cyber security advisor for international governments, multinationals, and NGOs. She has worked at the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defense, and the National Cyber Security Center, and is dedicated to helping her clients learn what is “under the hood” of their organizations both in terms of security vulnerabilities and technological opportunities for the future. In addition to her work at RevNext, she was founder and until 2016 president of the international Women in Cyber Security Network. In 2016, 2017, and 2019, she was listed as one of the Inspiring Fifty, an annual listing of the 50 most inspiring women in the technology sector.   

Anouk is a 2017 IVLP alumna of the project, “Hidden No More: International Women Leaders in STEM.” Of the IVLP experience, she wrote, “I was introduced to over 40 women who are leading and trailblazing in tech in their respective countries. To meet so many talented and inspiring women has really stimulated me to reach beyond my initial goals.”   

When Anouk returned from her IVLP, she teamed up with Cultivating Coders, a group her IVLP cohort met in Albuquerque, NM. Together they created an in-depth ethical hacking course, “Cyberheroes,” which brought U.S. students to the Netherlands to learn about cybersecurity best practices. Since 2017, they have been able to provide free training to 200+ participants on how to fight cybercrime and protect critical IT infrastructure. Last year, they extended the program to refugees from Ukraine, whom they are training for future careers in cybersecurity. 

In 2020, the U.S. Department of State appointed Anouk, alongside other IVLP alumni such as Tony Blair and Jacinda Adern, as one of the Faces of Exchange, an international initiative showcasing 80 accomplished IVLP alumni, their lives, and the impact of their exchanges on the global community.