Exchange Matters / January 16, 2024

Empowering People through Policy and IVLP Exchanges

Compiled by Layla Melendez, Communications Intern 

This January, the Global Ties Network delves into the crucial role of citizen-led engagement in global affairs and how International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) initiatives support this work. By highlighting IVLP projects focused on equality, trade, and sustainability, these snapshots provide a window into the profound impact of cross-cultural exchanges to build the relationships, knowledge, and trust needed to address 21st century challenges. From the exploration of LGBTQI+ rights in Los Angeles to discussions on trade partnerships in Virginia, and the examination of Seattle’s innovative energy practices, learn how the Global Ties Network is advancing international connectivity, civic engagement, and local participation in diplomacy to contribute to a more inclusive, interconnected, and globally informed community. 

International Citizen Diplomacy of Los Angeles

IVLP: LGBTQI+ Policies and Implementation in the United States
NPA: Cultural Vistas 

By Victoria Meza, Program Officer 

International Citizen Diplomacy of Los Angeles (ICDLA) has been proud to work with Cultural Vistas twice on the implementation of the IVLP “LGBTQI+ Policies and Implementation in the United States” for Vietnam, hosting one group of NGO leaders and activists in November 2022 and a second group of government officials in November 2023.  

In November 2022, the first group interacted with the District Attorney of Los Angeles County and members of the LGBTQ+ Advisory Board, discussing best practices related to LGBTQ+ citizens in the criminal justice system. Ryan Adserias from the UCLA Office of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, provided insights on university support for LGBTQI+ students, while Monica Trasandes, Director of Spanish Language and Latinx Media & Representation, spoke about advancing equality through media.  

IVLP group from Vietnam (November 2022) with Maebe A. Girl, Treasurer of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council, and currently running for the seat in California’s 30th Congressional District. Photo provided by ICDLA.

The following year, in November 2023, the second group met with Geoff Chin from the Los Angeles LGBT Center who shared his expertise on community-based policy and advocacy. A highlight of the 2023 program was a meeting with members of the West Hollywood City Council. Established as a city in 1984, West Hollywood became the first city in the nation to have a majority openly gay governing body. Approximately 40 percent of West Hollywood’s residents identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community. In this meeting, visitors learned about the City Council’s Transgender Advisory Board and how an advisory board made up of people from the community can be beneficial for advocating for transgender rights and shaping policies. 

Both groups also had the chance to meet Maebe A. Girl (she/her/they/them), an openly trans non-binary person who became the first drag queen elected to public office in the United States. During their meetings, they discussed the importance of LGBTQIA+ representation in grassroots and government systems.  

ICDLA was proud to host both IVLP delegations and to engage our community partners in this series of engaging meetings. Such interactions are mutually enriching for all individuals involved, not only enhancing their knowledge, but also providing practical insights into policy implementation, public opinion, and legal challenges facing the LGBTQI+ community here in the United States and abroad. These IVLP programs were an important step in improving international conversations and understanding, helping to support a worldwide effort for equality and inclusion for everyone. 

The Presidential Precinct

IVLP: U.S. Economic and Trade Policy: A Regional Project for the Western Hemisphere
NPA: World Learning 

By Drew Precious, Director of Communications 

At The Presidential Precinct, we recently gathered 16 international visitors from 12 countries in Latin America for conversations around U.S. Economic and Trade Policy. This IVLP program was hosted in Richmond, our capital city, providing great opportunities to meet with both state and local government leaders. 

IVLP participants gather with economic development directors from three local counties in central Virginia. Photo provided by Presidential Precinct.

We started with important framing of the partnerships between state and local level trade initiatives in Virginia. Todd Haymore, former Secretary of Commerce and Trade for the State of Virginia, emphasized relationship-building as a lynchpin for trade – a key theme for our entire program. Todd also explained how the Governor’s office sets the tone for economic priorities and ultimately relies on individual programs and partnerships to see priorities through.  

Among these programs are the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), where representatives told visitors about the Virginia Talent Accelerator program and other strategic incentives that VEDP offers to businesses across the state. Continuing to build on the relationship-building theme, VEDP leaders outlined a two-way street of engagement in their efforts to promote Virginia businesses abroad while also recruiting companies from other countries to do business in Virginia. 

Richmond-based law firm McGuireWoods convened economic development directors from three neighboring counties to meet with visitors. Along with a representative from the Greater Richmond Partnership, they all presented unique case studies – spanning from urban to rural areas promoting all kinds of industry – biotech, agriculture, manufacturing, and more. Everyone in the room shared a common purpose of empowering their local community through economic opportunity. This goal and its associated challenges clearly spanned across country and continental borders. 

Venturing just outside of Richmond, visitors also met with Makola M. Abdullah, President of Virginia State University and John Altman, City Manager of Petersburg, Virginia. These two framed a day-long exploration of how academia is working to build up and support a vibrant workforce, playing a critical role in local area growth.  

Everyone who was a part of this program received a warm and enthusiastic invitation to collaborate in the visitors’ home countries. The importance of relationships in trade offers a perfect fit for the IVLP’s stated goal that visitors “cultivate lasting relationships with their American counterparts.” We look forward to sharing more as these relationships between Virginia and visitors’ own institutions grow. 

World Affairs Council of Seattle

IVLP: U.S. Energy Policy: Security, Independence, and Innovation
NPA: Meridian International Center 

By Rhiannon Rasaretnam, Program Coordinator 

Seattle is known as the “Emerald City,” a nickname that reflects not only the natural greenery of the region but also its status as an environmentally friendly green city. This made the World Affairs Council of Seattle especially delighted to welcome an IVLP group participating in the “U.S. Energy Policy: Security, Independence, and Innovation” program this past October. Representing 16 countries (Argentina, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ethiopia, Ghana, Iceland, Italy, Jordan, Mexico, Moldova, New Zealand, Romania, the Slovak Republic, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and Tunisia), these international visitors came from impressive backgrounds in engineering, policy, and research to learn about Seattle’s renewable energy practices and advancements in clean energy technologies. They had the opportunity to meet with the Bullitt Center, Brightwater Treatment Center, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Seattle City Light, the University of Washington’s Clean Energy Institute, and the Pacific Northwest Hydrogen Association during their time in the city. 

The group’s tour of the Bullitt Center, known as “the greenest commercial building in the world,” served as an apt introduction to Seattle’s commitments to sustainability. The Bullitt Center incorporates nature-inspired innovations into its design, from photovoltaic cells on the roof to veins of hydronic radiant tubing embedded in the floors for heating. The building occupants themselves also are included in its energy efficient processes. For example, vacuum toilets send their solid waste to be recycled into biosolids through Loop, which contributes to a cleaner wastewater treatment process. By demonstrating the viability of solar power in the cloudiest of cities, the Bullitt Center proved to the visitors that it was possible to adapt its design elements to any environment. 

IVLP visitors learn about the wastewater treatment process at Brightwater Center. All photos provided by WAC Seattle.

Following the flow of the building’s wastewater, the international visitors’ next destination was the Brightwater Treatment Center. Brightwater is the newest wastewater treatment facility in the region, focused on reusing biogas and conserving energy. Donning hardhats and reflective vests, the group embarked on an immersive tour, first venturing underground to view the anaerobic digester tanks where Loop is produced from solid waste. They then made their way back up to the surface to peer into the dark, swirling aeration tanks where organic material was being removed from the wastewater. The participants particularly enjoyed their experience at the Brightwater Center, as they found it valuable to “see things in practice.  

IVLP visitors pose in front of the Seattle skyline at Kerry Park.

Renewing their own energy between meetings with frequent coffee shop visits, this group took full advantage of everything Seattle had to offer — even catching a basketball game at the Climate Pledge Arena! At the program’s close, it was clear that our visitors had established meaningful connections, not only with their professional contacts, but with each other. Exchange matters because it sparks conversations and generates collaborations between people who may have never had the chance otherwise.