Exchange Matters / June 22, 2015

Letter from the President: Mi Casa es su Casa

This past spring represented a milestone for Global Ties U.S. After 20 years in our previous location and 18 months of hard work, negotiating, and planning, Global Ties U.S., in partnership with Cultural Vistas, moved to a new location in the heart of Washington, DC’s downtown district at 1250 H Street NW.

We have a long history of sharing space with like-minded organizations. In its early years, Global Ties—then NCIV—was housed at the Meridian International Center. After we moved to 1420 K Street NW we shared space with the Phelps Stokes Fund (a former implementing partner of the IVLP) and most recently had as our neighbor a portion of the Cultural Vistas team. Cultural Vistas is a nonprofit exchange organization that annually serves more than 5,000 students, professionals, and emerging leaders through career-focused internships, educational study tours, language immersion, and cultural exchange programs in the United States and around the world.

During our Open House celebration last month, Cultural Vistas CEO Robert Fenstermacher and I planted symbolic seed pods that represented a commitment to increased collaboration between our two organizations and the greater international exchange community. #1250Hub, as we have nicknamed our space, is a new and budding center for partnerships in international exchange.

During the event, I made the point that Global Ties U.S. has had a long track record of working collaboratively with our partners. It has been a key element to our past success and will undoubtedly be a key to our future, particularly given the emergence of a more collaborative economy.

The concept of sharing and cooperation is growing in its importance as our economy rapidly evolves into what is known as a “sharing economy” which “includes the shared creation, production, distribution, trade and consumption of goods and services by different people and organizations.” Think of entities like Zipcar, AirBnB, Lyft, Uber and others that are often disruptive, but are seeing tremendous growth and success in leveraging the power of shared ownership, co-creation and collaborative consumption.

Our shared space allows both organizations to welcome larger numbers of visitors and friends, thanks to the team room, spacious conference room, and shared workroom and kitchen we now enjoy. The facilities are much nicer than either of us could have secured had we “gone it alone.”

In the spirit of the sharing economy, long-time friends Ambassador Walt and Isabel “Didi” Culter went out of their way to make our new office welcoming and reflective of the work we do. Didi Cutler, the distinguished photographer and wife of former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Walter Cutler, shared with us several outstanding photos, which highlight their travels around the world.

A colleague of mine, who worked in Haiti years ago, sometimes shares Creole language proverbs with our staff. A favorite of his which is particularly popular in Haiti is pronounced de’yen munn, ge’yen munn, whose literal translation is “after every mountain, there’s another mountain.” The proverb’s real meaning reflects an experience all of us share: once you’ve surmounted an obstacle, there’s another one right in front of you which must be overcome. I certainly felt this way as we negotiated Global Ties U.S.’ exit from our previous office space to the lovely quarters we now occupy. I’m now comfortable sharing a famous Spanish-language expression whose meaning probably needs no explaining: mi casa es su casa.

To bring the point home: everyone in our community is welcome to visit our new office. Think of it as our house, and yours.

By Jennifer Clinton, PhD, Global Ties U.S. Follow her on Twitter: @CDJClinton