Exchange Matters / November 28, 2023

Letter from Global Ties U.S. President & CEO – 2023

Thank you for reading this and for being a member, partner, funder, or general supporter of Global Ties U.S. and our extraordinary Network of 90+ nonprofit organizations, all of which are committed to building trust and advancing peace and prosperity through international exchange. The theme of this annual report is Diplomacy in Action: Raising Community Voices, which we will be carrying into 2024 for our National Meeting, March 5-8. We’re privileged to be amplifying the nationwide and international voices who believe that diplomacy begins here, with all of us.    

I started my career in national security more than 20 years ago, inspired by a high school international exchange program. It was a humbling experience to be 16 and realize how little I knew about the world, or the United States. Yet it was also incredibly energizing and taught me the critical importance of listening. We all bring our biases, frameworks, and lenses to making sense of issues. If we are to cooperate and tackle the momentous challenges of our modern world, like climate change and global pandemics, we need to know one another. We need to understand the ideas, cultures, norms, and values that drive countries’ decision-making about international relations. Public diplomacy and international exchange programs are the pathway for us to do this.   

Our Network is not only committed to supporting our country’s diplomacy overseas, we are also living it in our cities through the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) and other public diplomacy programs. This includes the ones Global Ties U.S. is privileged to support directly, including our work with U.S. ExchangeAlumni, the Water Smart Engagement Program (WiSE), and the MENA-USA Empowering Resilient Girls Exchange (MERGE), and the myriad of programs our Network members implement. This year, we also extended our work to include partner organizations whose missions align with ours in international affairs, public diplomacy, and community inclusion, such as Mobility International USA, American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), World Savvy, and the University of Southern California’s Center on Public Diplomacy. 

This year, we also developed some critical data with our first-ever Global Ties U.S. Community Impact Study. Our colleagues at the U.S. Department of State know that the world leaders who travel to U.S. communities, more than 4,000 of them each year, deepen their understanding of and relationship with the United States. We also wanted to understand how U.S. citizens and their cities are changed by the experiences. Our national Network, before COVID-19, had a 10:1 return on federal investment. This means that for every federal dollar spent on programs conducted in the United States, $10 more were generated to support the program.  

Until now, the socio-cultural impact seemed elusive. After conducting a nationwide survey of U.S. citizens who engage in diplomacy locally, by welcoming, hosting, and interacting with the global leaders who visit them in their communities, we found that:   

  • More than 80% of survey respondents said that participating in international exchange programs increased their global knowledge and cultural competence; 
  • 77% reported greater interest in being civically engaged; 
  • 80% reported international exchange programs enhanced the image of their community; and 
  • 32% reported benefits in long-term international connectivity for their businesses, organizations, and/or personal networks. 

You will see on these pages plenty of examples of diplomacy in action to advance these gains. Our call to action is to raise our voices and build even greater support for this work in communities across the United States, with U.S. and international alumni, with corporations and foundations, and here in Washington, DC. As the world gets more complex, as the challenges seem steeper, the relationships and networks we build make it all manageable. Our Network is humanizing the world and building relationships that are the foundation for international diplomacy and cooperation. I’m grateful to have all of you with us as we accelerate this work. 

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