Network Innovation Spotlight / March 18, 2021

Connecting Communities Through Collaboration

By Jena Melançon, Gulf Coast Diplomacy, and Marian Reich, Global Ties Detroit

Jena (top) and Marian

Last year, as the reality of the pandemic-related challenges facing our organizations set in, Courtney Brooks, Executive Director of Global Ties KC, brought Community-Based Member (CBM) leaders together for informal weekly meetings to discuss strategies, ideas, and best practices, and provide support to one another through the crisis. Many of our organizations began hosting online events to continue the vital work of citizen diplomacy in a virtual format, inviting our network colleagues to take part.

In April 2020, Global Ties Detroit began a weekly Virtual Talk Series, engaging local experts to speak on global topics of local interest, including global public health, supply-chain management, international e-commerce and markets, and international relations/public diplomacy in the current era.

Similarly, Gulf Coast Diplomacy in Pensacola, Florida began its own weekly Small World Cafe series, engaging IVLP and other exchange alumni to present on international topics and share how their exchange experience and COVID-19 has impacted them.

During one of the weekly CBM leaders’ chats, Jena proposed a partnership: Gulf Coast Diplomacy and Global Ties Detroit would combine efforts to double virtual event offerings and provide members and supporters with a wider variety of perspectives. Marian eagerly agreed and a beautiful partnership launched in June.

Both organizations recruited speakers, cross-promoted events through email and social media, attended each other’s events, and promoted future programming at each event. To split the workload, Gulf Coast Diplomacy programmed events for the first two weeks of each month and Global Ties Detroit for the latter half. Each month, we make sure the slate of programs includes an international speaker, often an IVLP or other exchange program alum, and a local expert from one of our communities.

Our most popular events were our pilot collaboration with the Small World Cafe featuring IVLP alumna Angela Llnanos on how COVID-19 has impacted the Bolivian tourism industry and her Call-a-Llama virtual innovation, and the Virtual Talk Series featuring Global Ties Detroit Board Member Ed Clemente exploring the Seven New Wonders of the World.

Through our partnership, Global Ties Detroit and Gulf Coast Diplomacy have achieved:

  • 30-50% increased program attendance
  • Engagement of exchange program alumni
  • New local, national and international partnerships
  • Regular monthly programming to serve members, supporters and community
  • Co-branding on event programming
  • Develop best practices and consistent communications as we continue to expand our offerings and connect our communities with the world

Based on the success of our collaboration, we’re excited to continue these events and our partnership.