Last year I started out this letter by noting that the year had been defined by disruption. One year later, I need to write the same thing – the last two (plus) years have been filled with challenges as the Global Ties Network continued to face the seemingly endless disruptions of the pandemic.
This Network is composed of dedicated professionals who know the power of citizen-to-citizen diplomacy and international exchanges. It is a group for whom the mission matters – and that mission has been complicated by the pandemic in ways big and small. But for all the devastation the pandemic caused across the country and around the world, this Network has emerged stronger. It has not been easy to navigate these challenges – far from it. We are all tired and stressed. Despite all of this, as my term as Board Chair comes to end, I am looking back on the last two years with tremendous gratitude and looking forward with optimism.
I am thankful that in this role I was given the opportunity to work so actively with the Global Ties Network; we became a closer community during the pandemic. I am optimistic that thanks to our renewed sense of mission, unprecedented support from Global Ties U.S. and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and the introspection and action we have undertaken as individuals and organizations to center diversity, equity, and inclusion on our work, we are a stronger community.
I am also excited for what’s ahead in 2023. I have been privileged to be part of the Global Ties Network Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Working Group. With the U.S. Department of State’s support, the Working Group will be able to offer new resources and best practices to the Network so that we can put in place operational and programming changes that will help us better represent our diverse communities to the world and to be change agents in our communities. We are also looking forward to a robust return to in-person programming while recognizing that we may need to rebuild our connections in our communities as we re-introduce the power of exchanges. Finally, we’ll lay the groundwork for building a larger infrastructure for citizen and subnational diplomacy across the country and finding new ways to foster experiences with alumni.
If our efforts over the last two years have been about sustaining our communities and the Network, going forward we can focus on (re)building community globally and locally. The Network will not look the same as it did before the pandemic – it is closer, more cohesive, and better equipped to meaningfully lean in on diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.
I am stepping down as Chair, but will remain a committed member of this powerful Network. It has been such a rewarding experience to work with Katherine Brown and the Global Ties U.S. team. I have learned so much from my fellow trustees and from all of you. There is much work to do and I am honored to be a part of it as we power individuals, communities, and nations to build trust and advance peace and prosperity through international exchange.