Exchange Matters / January 2, 2014

Letter from the President: We Build Stronger Global Ties Together

“Does your name and identity change represent a more significant shift in the organization’s strategy, mission, vision, and values?”

This is a question I have been asked with the launch of our new name and identity. The answer is simple: no. In fact, the changes represent a rejuvenation of and recommitment to our core vision, mission, values, and overall strategy.

Our vision is “a peaceful, prosperous world where individuals build enduring relationships through international exchange.” Though stated in different ways over the decades, it has always emphasized these common themes. They were present when we were founded in 1961 and President John F. Kennedy wrote: “I am convinced that increased participation by dedicated Americans in international exchanges will help us to achieve our common hope for a durable and just peace.”

International exchange is one of the most powerful and lasting tools for change we have as a people and a nation.

Our mission statement continues to highlight the essential role of building relationships. It also hones in on the role Global Ties U.S. plays to support our members and the international exchange programs they deliver. It is “to strengthen relationships between individuals and nations by making international exchange programs more effective.”

We face many challenges. Shrinking resources are a major concern. We face just as many opportunities. Now more than ever, individuals play an increasingly central role in domestic and international relations. It is critical that the tools we use to address global challenges have a strong and lasting impact. As we all know first-hand, international exchange is one of the most powerful and lasting tools for change we have as a people and a nation.

Our new name, Global Ties U.S., reflects the heart and soul of our work—building enduring relationships between individuals and nations. We believe our name will be understood by wider audiences who haven’t necessarily experienced the power and impact of international exchange first-hand like so many of us have in our daily lives.

The strategies we are implementing to advance our vision and mission fall into four categories:

First is to strengthen the capabilities and capacity of our member organizations to deliver high-quality, impactful international exchange programs. In order to do this, our members need a strong foundation in governance, administration, communications, and foreign policy priorities.

Second is to expand the visibility of our network through partnerships that align with our vision and mission. Public diplomacy, according to Edward R. Murrow, is all about the “pursuit of men’s minds and opinions. It is an elusive goal. You do not win them quickly or easily.” The more people understand, believe, and support our work—the more successful we will be. To attract resources and people, we have to be clear in our purpose and allow people to see themselves in our work. Avoiding jargon, acronyms, and insider-speak is an important step in this direction.

Third is to strengthen the scope and effectiveness of our advocacy efforts to ensure our elected representatives fully invest in international exchange programs. This will involve educating key leaders about the relevance and powerful impact of our work at the local, national, and international level.

Fourth is to diversify our funding base and that of our members to weather uncertainties in Congressional appropriations. You will see a more concerted effort to encourage individuals and corporations to support our efforts to close the widening gap of government funding.

Avoiding jargon, acronyms, and insider-speak is an important step in this direction.

We have a very strong and committed board of directors, strong partners within the U.S. Department of State, a passionate team at Global Ties U.S., and a dynamic network of member organizations and partners with dedicated and inspiring staff and volunteers. We still have much work to do, but together I know we can achieve our goals.

I believe it will take discipline, creativity, empowerment, professionalism, collaboration, and putting people first. It may not feel comfortable all of the time, and it will be hard work, but I ask you to join us in this effort and know that our sense of purpose is strong and our commitment is unwavering. To quote the words of Seneca, the Roman philosopher and statesman, “It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness.” I welcome your insights and input as to how we can continue to lead and serve you in our collective purpose.

By: Jennifer Clinton PhD, President, Global Ties U.S.