Exchange Matters / February 23, 2022

IVLP Programs Provide Opportunities for Social Change

Compiled by Margaret Pfeifle, Communications Intern, Global Ties U.S.

Throughout February, the Global Ties Network is reflecting on how exchange programs like the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) advance civic and social justice initiatives in communities around the world. Both Sarah Sibley, Vice President for Citizen Diplomacy at WorldBoston, and Marian Reich, President of Global Ties Detroit, reflect on hosting a December 2021 IVLP that highlighted the role of inclusive programming in engaging communities and creating fresh ideas. Jamie Bequette, International Visitor Program Manager at Colorado Springs World Affairs Council, expands on bringing awareness to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) topics, sharing how the arts leads to a unique opportunity for social change. Read on to learn more.

A Global Moment in Time: Reflections on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility

NPA: Meridian International Center

CBM: WorldBoston

Photo provided by WorldBoston.

In December 2021, WorldBoston collaborated with Meridian International Center to host an International Visitor Leadership Project (IVLP) titled, ” A Global Moment in Time: Reflections on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility.” The project examined what Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) mean in the United States and around the globe. Participants and their U.S. counterparts discussed their own understanding of DEIA and the need to advance opportunities for all. Participants also examined how historical trends continue to impact minorities and the efforts of modern civil rights groups to challenge assumptions and change the status quo. 

WorldBoston connected these IVLP participants with our partner, Artists For Humanity (AFH), a Boston based, nonprofit social enterprise that bridges economic, racial, and social divisions by providing under-resourced teens the keys to self-sufficiency through paid employment in art and design. AFH builds equity through creativity—offering teens a seat at the table with industry professionals where their opinions are valued, they are treated as colleagues, and looked to as experts. Working collaboratively with a team of artist and designer mentors, teens learn as they earn a wage, use their intrinsic creativity as they master marketable skills and contribute to client projects, and forge a path toward post-secondary educational options and meaningful careers.  

“Everybody’s story and context are different,” said Lorraine Johnson, Director of Program Operations for AFH, “but it is in the sharing and learning from others — especially when outside the box of one’s day to day — where fresh ideas percolate and new connections form to advance one’s vision and work.”  

WorldBoston was honored to host this project and participate in discussions with these incredibly motivated DEIA community leaders from around the world. Despite taking place in a virtual environment, visitors were still able to gain valuable insight into furthering equal rights and DEIA in their own communities — they were able to bring their own perspectives to those they met with, allowing a meeting of cross-cultural dialogue to flourish and benefit all involved. These exchanges matter, as they can give both visitors and their U.S. counterparts a new perspective, or new advice on dealing with some of the challenges faced by communities all across the globe. 

– Sarah Sibley, Vice President for Citizen Diplomacy 

CBM: Global Ties Detroit

On December 13, 2021 Global Ties Detroit hosted its final International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) meeting of the year, virtually welcoming 46 visitors from more than 25 countries to learn about our city’s diverse communities and modern civil rights groups.

Rabbi Asher Lopatin, Executive Director of the JCRC/AJC Detroit, Alia Harvey-Quinn, Detroit FORCE Director, and Dujuan Zoe Kennedy, a community organizer, spoke earnestly with the IVLP delegation about their personal struggles and inspirations, as well as professional challenges and achievements.  They shared key strategies that have helped them succeed in engaging communities, building collaboration, and promoting peace, understanding and equity.

It felt as though time stood still as presenters and participants connected meaningfully through their stories, hopes, and commitment to their cause. Dujuan offered sincere respect and encouragement, as he saw links with the delegation’s international work to the that of founding civil rights leaders — pioneers whose sacrifices make it easier for their children, grandchildren, and generations to follow.  “It is like speaking with the ancestors,” Dujuan said. To know that working for diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility will create a better life for those to come all around the world.

– Marian Reich, President

Promoting Social Change through the Arts

CBM: Colorado Springs World Affairs Council


Photo provided by Colorado Springs World Affairs Council.

“Promoting Social Change through the Arts” was a 2021 International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) project coordinated with FHI360, and a highlight for the Colorado Springs World Affairs Council (CSWAC). For this project, we hosted two professional meetings. The first included two Colorado Springs organizations, Youth Documentary Academy (YDA) and Poetry719.

YDA is a nonprofit that teaches high school youth the art of filmmaking. Through film, students’ voices bellow, no longer hushed by adults or seen as inexperienced in the world. Film allows their stories to be heard, consequently creating awareness of complicated subjects such as colorism, discrimination based on hair texture, military trauma and PTSD, and bipolar disorder, among others.

Poetry719 is a grassroots organization created to provide safe space for BIPOC and queer communities for spoken word expression. During the meeting, co-organizer Ashley Cornelius confirmed that using the art of poetry to voice inequities or speak on “heavy” topics has proven to be a more effective way to shed light on disparities in various populations — people are more open to listen to difficult issues through expression of art rather than just having a conversation.

The second arranged professional meeting was co-hosted with San Antonio Council for International Visitors (SACIV). CSWAC and SACIV brought together local artists Gregg Deal and Mark Menjivar to share how they use performance and visual art to create awareness and — exactly as the project title reads — promote social change. Gregg spoke extensively on his murals and paintings, which expose Indigenous people’s truths, challenge Western perceptions of Indigenous people, and touch on issues of race, history, and stereotype. Mark talked about his art installations, and how his work created dialogue and action around capital punishment in Texas.

Shawn Davis, a FHI360 Program Officer, uniquely formatted each meeting so that every delegate had the opportunity to share their own art before the professional meeting began — storytelling, poetry, painting, music, and more. He arranged these presentations to match the artistic forms of the U.S. counterparts. Shawn’s innovative formatting created a space that felt like we were back to in-person programming and felt like a true exchange, where both sides had adequate time to share and learn. It was an absolute delight to experience each participant’s artistic gifts. I was awe-inspired!

Art, in one form or another, is enjoyed by everyone. Art has the power to shape minds, shape policy, and shape society. We need art in our lives. It was an honor to connect global changemakers with our local art-activists and to learn how art has the power to shape the world.

– Jamie Bequette, International Visitor Program Manager