By Kristie Moore, Events Intern, Global Ties U.S.
After a three-year hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic, Global Ties U.S., in partnership with the Office of International Visitors at the U.S. Department of State and four Community-Based Members, successfully brought back the in-person Diplomacy Begins Here Regional Summits. These annual events, held in communities across the United States, engage local audiences and international leaders in dialogue around the importance of international exchange programs and citizen diplomacy. The 2022 Summits took place in Illinois (July 20-22), Florida (September 22-23), and Oregon (October 13-14) and covered themes including diversity, innovation, and environmental action. The 2022 Summits engaged more than 400 attendees.
The three-day Illinois Summit from July 20-22 kicked off the year. Hosted by the WorldChicago and Freeport Area International Visitors Council, this Summit explored the theme of “Connecting Diverse Communities Through Diplomacy.”
The event began with an optional boat tour along the Chicago River, which provided Global Ties Network attendees the opportunity to connect, catch-up, and experience the city’s architecture and beautiful skyline.
The next day, the Global Ties Network traveled to Freeport for the Learning Lab. This full-day professional development event included workshops on youth engagement, storytelling for advocacy and community-building, and prioritizing diversity and inclusivity within organizations and programming, Sessions like “Traveling Back in Time with Benjamin Franklin” gave attendees the unique opportunity to explore Freeport’s diplomatic history, while concurrent breakout sessions allowed attendees to engage in collaborative, informal learning and further engage with the Summit’s theme on topics ranging from working with government leaders to storytelling and the IVLP program.
The final day of the Summit brought together IVLP participants from Japan, Chicago-area students, and international exchange partners and supporters from across the United States. Featured speakers included Stacy White, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and Jhmira Alexander, President and Executive Director of Public Narrative. Panelists Ted Williams III, Asha Castleberry-Hernandez, and Barbara Barreno-Paschall discussed diversity in diplomacy and shared strategies to incorporate inclusivity into diplomatic work.
Concurrent breakout sessions allowed attendees to learn about U.S. Department of State exchange programs and the application of diplomacy in other contexts, while student attendees took part in their own youth track and explored careers and opportunities in diplomacy. Attendees left the Chicago Summit with new connections and a better understanding of diversity and inclusivity in the field of diplomacy.
In Pensacola, FL, Gulf Coast Diplomacy hosted the “Local STEAM to Global Innovation” Summit from September 22-23, bringing together more than 160 attendees to explore the intersection between STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) and diplomacy on a local and global scale.
The Summit kicked off with the Learning Lab, which presented content designed to help Global Ties Network members strengthen skills related to IVLP programing and fundraising, while providing a space for networking and collaborative learning.
As one attendee shared, “I find the Lab to be the highlight of every Summit. The format, content, and energies are truly conducive to learning and allow space for meaningful updates and deeper conversations…..“
The following day, attendees were introduced to a wide array of topics through the Summit’s unique lyceum format of short talks. Lyceum I covered international exchange, STEAM, and creativity in problem setting, while Lyceum II explored storytelling, cybersecurity, and human-machine teaming. The Youth Track introduced participants to the field of diplomacy. Working in teams, these emerging leaders took on the roles of diplomats in a simulation exercise, developing critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills. The youth attendees later attended a career panel, and learned more about pathways and opportunities with the U.S. Government.
The October 13-14 Summit in Portland, OR closed out the year. Hosted by WorldOregon, this Summit brought together more than 100 international partners and supporters to explore the theme, “Building Citizen Engagement & Environmental Action.”
The Summit kicked off with an optional visit to the Oregon Zoo before transitioning into speaker sessions, and networking breaks at the World Forestry Center. Sessions like “Balancing a Post-Pandemic World” and “Citizen Diplomacy and the Impact of Global Exchange” engaged attendees in discussions of pivotal issues facing the United States and the role of global exchange programs in economic development, education, and global security.
Other sessions like “Old-Growth Diplomacy and Nature Capital” highlighted best practices around environmental stewardship and trade, export, and sustainable industries as leveraging points for equitable economic and diplomatic benefit.
Keynote speaker and Oregon Poet Laureate Anis Moigani read from his work and shared how poetry, like diplomacy, is a cornerstone for building community and fostering interconnection. “As human we are hungry to share ourselves and be understood,” said Anis as he shared his poems with attendees. “My work is to explain this idea of connection and what it means to sit and share space with other humans. ‘This quiet that sits between us as a bridge.’”
The Summit continued into the next day with the Learning Lab at Columbia Sportswear. After a brief welcome, keynote speaker Lou Radja motivated attendees with a talk about thriving in challenging times. Said Lou, “Human nature is to fixate on the negative. Flip it. How has the pandemic made things better? Made us better? The prerequisite for what has gone wrong is the answer to what has gone right.”
Attendees also participated in sessions centered around storytelling and building diversity, before having an exclusive shopping experience at the Columbia Sportswear employee store.
Diplomacy Begins Here Regional Summits are community-based events that highlight the role citizen diplomacy plays in building a more peaceful and prosperous world at home and abroad. The Summits help forge new connections within local communities and promote a deeper understanding of U.S. foreign policy, the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP), and the benefit of exchange programs to U.S. citizens. The return to in person Summits have allowed Global Ties U.S. to further connect with our Network and members of the community on the importance of international exchange and citizen diplomacy. We are grateful to our wonderful Network, which allowed us to put on this programming and encourage discussion and engagement around these vital topics. Global Ties U.S. is excited for what is to come in 2023 and all of the new places our organization and Network will go, people who will be reached, and topics that will be highlighted. See you in 2023.