Exchange Matters / December 12, 2022

Letter From Global Ties U.S. President & CEO – 2022

Welcome to our 2022 Annual Report. I’m particularly proud of the Global Ties U.S. team and Network this past year. We committed to returning to in-person exchanges and public diplomacy programs after nearly two years of working remotely due to the global pandemic. From supporting our Network with continuing the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) virtually and in-person, to completing our work at a successful USA Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, to launching our programs with U.S. alumni of government-sponsored exchange programs, to continuing the Law Enforcement Security Exchange Program and other exchanges, we all stepped up to ensure that our missions continue. We also celebrate the new emphasis on subnational diplomacy and citizen engagement at the U.S. Department of State. The power of this Network to increase the scale of U.S. citizen participation in foreign affairs by taking action in building community within their cities, and with their cities and the world, is unparalleled; 2022 has been a fantastic year to demonstrate this.  

While the pandemic gave us new technological skills, virtual exchanges were enhancements, but not replacements, for our in-person programs. I long come back to the work of Marcus Holmes, Ph.D., who looks at the social psychology of diplomacy. Our mission is to build trust and, as Marcus emphasizes in his work, the more face-time connections we have with someone, the more durable the relationship is. Virtual tools are important for sharing information, but face-time is critical to building trust. People can communicate more holistically in person: social cues are louder, silence is better interpreted, and surrounding environments can make points more vivid. Most importantly, in-person experiences are stickier than virtual ones, and are more likely to create change. 

The pandemic also helped us reexamine how we conduct international exchange and public diplomacy programs. We learned how to use technology to enhance exchanges, but the time we spent connecting virtually also taught us how to slow down and listen more. Listening is what makes this work a two-way exchange, and not one-way broadcasting. As we come back together in person, we need to make sure we slow down to listen to those we are with. When we thought about a theme to sum up this year and set the intentions for our work in 2023, we thought about rebuilding trust. There are three ways to think about this. 

First, building community at home in the United States with the Global Ties Network. One of the powerful outcomes of international exchanges is that they increase community integration for the U.S. citizens who engage with and welcome the participants. Community integration is naturally part of international exchanges, and exchanges create a greater sense of civic engagement, community pride, and appreciation of diverse cultural groups. This is a critical, social-cultural impact of Global Ties Network members. Our work is non-partisan and focused on bridging backgrounds to ensure we’re reflecting the rich diversity of the United States. With our renewed focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA), we have much to celebrate this past year, but also much more to do. I’m grateful especially for the 20 members of the DEIA Working Group who have challenged norms and set new standards for exchange programming and our organizations. 

Second, building community among international visitors and exchange beneficiaries, and continuing those relationships as they become alumni. We talk a lot at Global Ties U.S. about how this indispensable Network creates the relationships the United States needs overseas, strengthening our alliances through our citizens. This work never stopped during the pandemic. Coming out of it, the work became even more intense as communities determined their readiness to welcome back in-person programming in 2023, while also working to maintain those ties with alumni oversees, especially those in crisis, such as our colleagues and friends in Afghanistan and Ukraine.  

But perhaps most humbling for me is the third element of this theme: building community within our Network. Our nearly 90 IVLP members have turned to one another a significant deal these last three years. They have bound together to share best practices, vent, troubleshoot problems, and lift each other up. You’ll hear their voices throughout this report. At Global Ties U.S., we are honored to represent you, we’re listening – and we can’t wait to see you again, in-person. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and for being part of our mission. Together, we are rebuilding community globally and locally through international exchange.