Exchange Matters / December 24, 2019

Leading WorldDenver: Interview with John Krieger

(Above) Karen, left, with John Kriger, the new Executive Director of WorldDenver. Photo credit: Karen de Bartolomé.


Editor’s note: Karen de Bartolomé is the founding Executive Director of WorldDenver, a Community-Based Member in Denver, CO. Earlier this year, she retired after an extensive career in international exchanges and nonprofit management. She interviews her successor, John Krieger, following his first month on the job.

In October, John Krieger was selected by our board of directors to replace me after my retirement as Executive Director of WorldDenver.

Prior to the role, John had been involved with WorldDenver as a professional resource for our international exchange programs. He brings to the Global Ties Network valuable nonprofit management and international work experience.

Karen: What is your origin story? What got you interested in citizen diplomacy?
John: In law school, I worked on a grant-funded study of government response to infectious diseases in six Asian countries. I interviewed government officials and workers in stigmatized industries. It opened my eyes to the rest of the world.

Afterwards, I studied human rights law at American University. The International Legal Studies program admitted 100 students, but only two Americans. While at AU, my citizen diplomat inclinations were cemented by interactions with fellow students and the enduring global network we built.

K: What was your most memorable experience as one of WorldDenver’s favorite professional resources?
J: In the 2018 elections, I ran a non-partisan Get Out The Vote operation staffed by American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) volunteers. When WorldDenver asked us to meet with some election officials from India, I invited them to go door-to-door with our canvassers. It was fascinating to hear what they experienced—they were surprised how hard we work in the U.S. to get people to exercise their vote.

As Director of Campaigns for the ACLU of Colorado, I advocated for other staff members to join meetings with international visitors. At times, we had five to six staffers in the room. At first, they resisted based on how busy we were, but once I got them in the meetings, they could easily see the benefits of wider perspective and the exchange of expertise from other countries.

K: You came to WorldDenver being known for your success in membership development and engagement. What’s your secret sauce?
J: First, we need to expand the pool of people who interact with us. I’ve learned that nearly everyone who participates in some way in citizen diplomacy falls in love with it, so our job is to get more people to take that first step.

We also need to get away from the idea that membership is only a transaction with benefits. Yes, people want member benefits, but they also want to be proud of their city and its presence on the world stage. This is especially true for younger people—they may not be joiners, but they do give to causes that make them part of something bigger.

Denver is a beautiful place with a lot of things to do. To win people’s attention, we must show the unique power of international exchange to build lasting connections and to help address the biggest challenges of the world.

Learn more about WorldDenver, John, and the WorldDenver team.