Exchange Matters / February 6, 2024

Celebrating Global Connections Through Citizen Diplomacy

Compiled by Layla Melendez, Communications Intern 

This February, the spirit of citizen diplomacy comes to life through two International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) projects that connected visitors to several community-based organizations. Global Ties Idaho reflects on an IVLP delegation from Algeria who delved into Idaho’s emergency management landscape, engaging discussions with rescue personnel and exploring firsthand experiences with the Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue Unit. Meanwhile, World Partnerships, Inc. discusses an IVLP with Black-Canadian entrepreneurs who immersed themselves in vibrant discussions with St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch and local leaders, exploring equitable economic development strategies. Both IVLP initiatives showcase the power of global connections in fostering understanding and collaboration. 

Global Ties Idaho 

IVLP: Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Management, and Volunteerism
NPA: Cultural Vistas
By Carole Schroeder, Program Officer 

IVLP participants discuss emergency management with Brig. General Richy and his colleagues. Photos provided by Global Ties Idaho.

From December 6 – 11, 2023, Global Ties Idaho hosted a seven-person delegation from Algeria that focused on Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Management, and Volunteerism. The group had their first meeting with Brigadier General Brad Richy, Director of Idaho’s Office of Emergency Management, where he and his Branch Chiefs and Idaho Response Center personnel delved into an insightful discussion on emergency management in Idaho. The delegation also had the opportunity to tour the Response Center, learning more about the practices and tactics responders use during crises.  

Continuing their exploration, our visitors toured the District Fire Cache with Rick Finis and Casper Urbanek, Lands Program Manager and Lands Resource Supervisor, respectively, at the Idaho Department of Lands. While showing the visitors around, they discussed the responsibilities they take on when fighting wildland fires. The final stop of the day was a visit to the all-volunteer Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue Unit, led by Mark Sullivan, Director of Public Relations. Together, we learned about the important work they do by saving lives through their rescue efforts and commitment to mountain safety education. Within a week of this visit, Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue was featured in local news for their role in rescuing a 72-year-old woman who had spent days stuck in canyon after a car crash. 

The following day, the IVLP group ventured to the National Interagency Fire Center where Deputy Chief Marshall Thompson guided the group through its facilities. The smokejumpers showed our visitors how they sew their own equipment while the dispatchers explained their world-wide function and interagency cooperation complete with eight separate federal and state agencies. 

                    The group poses for a photo with the Boise Smokejumpers.

Our last visit was with Chad Cline, a Fire Information Officer at the Bureau of Land Management Boise Interagency Dispatch Center. He spoke about the fire management area of more than 9 million acres of public, state, and private lands in Southwest Idaho, emphasizing the large area of land their organization is tasked with keeping secure. The Algerian delegation’s Saturday ended with a dynamic basketball game at the Boise State University where we won the match. 

World Partnerships, Inc. 

IVLP: Entrepreneurship and Inclusive Economic Growth
NPA: Meridian International Center
By Gary Springer, President  

Leading BlackCanadian entrepreneurs visited Tampa Bay, Florida to explore equitable and inclusive economic development strategies, topics that generated lively and intense discussions with St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch and his administration, community leaders, and local African American entrepreneurs. 

St. Petersburgh Mayor Ken Welch (in green tie) speaks with the Canadian entrepreneurs. All photos provided by World Partnerships, Inc.

Hosted by Mayor Welch at the St. Petersburg Police Department, our opening panel focused on building the policy ecosystem for economic equity. “Equity is a technical skill, giving people a new lens to understand where everyone is coming from,” declared Mayor Welch.  

Topics covered workforce development, affordable housing, capacity-building, equity technical skills, and supplier diversity initiatives. The discussion highlighted the lens of equity guiding the Historic Gas Plant District re-development project, on the site of a once-thriving African American community dismantled in the 1970s as the interstate was built right through it. Panelists included Chief Anthony Holloway, St. Petersburg Police Department Chief of Police; Tom Greene, Assistant City Administrator; James Corbett, Community Development Administrator; Brian Caper, Economic and Workforce Development Director; and Kourey Hendryx-Bell, Supplier Diversity Manager.  

An afternoon roundtable featured The Greenhouse, a “one-stop shop” providing local businesses with the education, resources, and assistance necessary to thrive in the local economy. The Greenhouse is a public/private partnership between the city, the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce, and private partners. Tracey Smith, Small Business Liaison and Greenhouse Co-Manager, led an engaging dialogue with African American entrepreneurs who have benefited from Greenhouse services. 

Terri Lipsey Scott, Executive Director at the Carter G. Woodson African American Museum, hosted the Canadians for a reception and informal discussion about the creation of a new purpose-built Woodson Museum as part of the Historic Gas Plant District re-development. Terri invited the group back next evening for a panel discussion on Black Philanthropy, part of the Tampa Bay Afro-Futurism Festival, with one of our visitors joining the panel.  

Canadian entrepreneurs join St. Petersburg community leaders and entrepreneurs to close their session.

Our second day featured a panel of African American community leaders and entrepreneurs who emphasized the importance of representation, community engagement, and having the “courageous conversations” necessary for equitable economic development. Discussion was led by Kanika Tomalin, Ph.D., CEO and president of the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg; Cynthia Johnson, Director of Pinellas County Economic Development, Ph.D.; and Nikki Gaskin-Capehart, CEO and President of Pinellas County Urban League. The panel also included CEO Pat V. Mack of PVM; Jonathan D. Graham with HORUS Construction; and Renee Edwards, from Skin Kandii, LLC.  

A driving tour of “The Deuces,” St. Petersburg’s historic African American Main Street, the St. Pete Youth Farm, and the community redevelopment area brought the visitors an “on-site” experience. Lunch was celebrated at the House of Vegano, an African American-owned vegan sushi restaurant. 

The visit concluded with a hands-on tour of the Stavros Institute’s “Enterprise Village & Finance Park,” the national paradigm for youth economic education and financial literacy skills. The discussion was led by Patricia Jeremiah-Pittman, Director of the Institute. Several visitors noted, “What better way for kids to learn about finance, business, entrepreneurship, and life in general!”