Exchange Matters / May 2, 2023

Capacity-Building Grant Energizes Utah Diplomacy

By Felecia Maxfield-Barrett, Executive Director, Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy

Last year, Global Ties U.S. offered Community-Based Members a supplemental round of Community Partnership Grant (CPG) funding to help sharpen their nonprofit management and programmatic skills. I noticed this round of funding was unique in that its focus was all about building the Network’s capacity as nonprofits, especially with the return to in-person programs after the limited public engagement of virtual programs. Suggested use of funds included support of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) initiatives and policies; strategic planning and professional development initiatives for our staff and board; and community engagement support to expand our professional resources, home host volunteers, and local partnerships. 

In looking at what our organization most needed, Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy (Utah Diplomacy) decided to use the Round 2 CPG funding to focus on public relations. We knew that we wanted to reconnect and grow our network of professional resources, home host volunteers, and program support systems after COVID-19.  

We decided to host a mini “Diplomacy Begins Here Summit,” a day-long symposium that would bring the community together and increase awareness of Utah Diplomacy. Our event took place in February and focused on refugee resettlement in Utah. Strategically, we chose this theme for two reasons: First, we could invite nonprofits, K-12 schools, universities, colleges, faith institutes, elected officials, businesses, families, and students to attend this session. Second, this theme would bridge the conversation into related topics, including refugee and migration resources, education, nonprofit management, civic engagement, social enterprise, and government accountability. In other words, the potential for connection to existing and new professional resources was extensive.  

Felecia Maxfield-Barrett (onstage) welcomes more than 200 attendees to the Utah Diplomacy symposium on refugee resettlement in Utah. Photo provided by Utah Diplomacy.

We were honored to host Deputy Assistant Secretary Sarah Cross from the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration at the U.S. Department of State; Eskinder Negash, President & CEO of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants; and Jennie Murray, President & Chief Executive Officer at the National Immigration Forum. Our speakers discussed the vetting process of refugees, President Biden’s refugee resettlement priorities, the benefits refugees contribute to host communities, and how host communities and refugees can work together to strengthen integration and opportunity. 

Our three objectives of the symposium were to increase awareness, understanding, and engagement with Utah Diplomacy programs; increase the community’s knowledge of the symposium topic; and offer attendees a call to action where they could immediately engage with partnering nonprofits. These three objectives supported our ultimate goal of demonstrating the value of citizen diplomacy – the concept that everyone has the right, even the responsibility, to shape U.S. foreign relations (even within our local communities) one handshake at a time. 

The impact of the symposium was significant.  

  • More than 200 people attended the symposium. 
  • 63% of attendees did not know about Utah Diplomacy before attending the symposium. 
  • 94% of attendees reported interest in participating in other Utah Diplomacy programs thanks to this symposium. 
  • We added 136 new contacts to our newsletter. 
  • 16 partnering nonprofits tabled at the event.  
  • 66% of partnering nonprofits reported at least 80% of attendees interacted with their table, and  
  • At least 160 people signed up to volunteer or committed to engaging with the nonprofit organizations beyond the symposium.  

Attendee feedback was similarly positive. “I was very impressed with the quality of the speakers and being able to hear what’s happening on both the local and federal levels,” said one speaker on attending their first Utah Diplomacy event. 

Added another, “This was a wonderful, informative, and community-based event that really sparked my interest and passion in this topic. Thank you, and I look forward to attending more events and programs by Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy!” 

I share this story with great appreciation to Global Ties U.S. and the Office of International Visitors at the U.S. Department of State for helping us grow our capacity through the Round 2 CPG funding. Capacity-building grant funding is a unicorn. It is essential to grow our organizations and advance our work; however, most funders only want to support programs. Without this support, we could not have (re)energized our community in this way around citizen diplomacy and the value of international exchange programs.