Network Innovation Spotlight / October 28, 2021

We Know #ExchangeMatters: Getting the Local Community Onboard

by Kristin Allen, Executive Director, and Nicole Magney, Board Member, Global Ties Arizona 

Kristin Allen (top) and Nicole Magney

One of the hardest jobs for any nonprofit is articulating the right message to the right people in terms that empower them to engage. This challenge can be especially pronounced in our field of international exchange and people-to-people diplomacy, where the impact of our work often takes time to demonstrate.  

When you support it daily, you know that exchange works to keep our country safe, promotes our economic prosperity, advances our national interests, and creates vital connections between entities in the United States and abroad to stimulate global partnerships that drive impact at scale. It’s up to us to make sure that our local community knows it, too.  

This year, two of us at Global Ties Arizona (Kristin Allen, Executive Director and Nicole Magney, Board Member) joined the inaugural class of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition’s Next Gen Global Leaders program to learn strategies to tackle the challenge of communicating local impact head on.  

Kristin Allen engages with Congressman Ruben Gallego during a USGLC Virtual Town Hall in April 2021, sharing the importance of internationalization efforts in AZ universities and the local community impact of international exchange with state organizations and businesses. (All photos provided by Global Ties Arizona)

Alongside a nationwide network of like-minded and passionate peers, we’ve: 

  • Expanded our advocacy toolkit, honing methods for explaining our value to a wide range of audiences.  
  • (Virtually) met with and written letters to our representatives on Capitol Hill, emphasizing the need for a robust international affairs budget.  
  • Engaged with local businesses about the tangible return on investment that exchange brings to the community connecting more than 115 emerging foreign leaders from over 50 countries with nearly 70 local community members and leaders in recent months. 
  • Contributed to local partners’ communications to share the importance of citizen diplomacy, and ignited fellow Arizonans’ excitement about our mission through a diverse slate of informative and cultural programming – engaging with more than 400 community members across 15 different events since June (conversations with Ambassadors, cultural discussions, and social gatherings) in order to spread our message. 

Nicole Magney moderates a Global Ties Arizona program earlier this month featuring Peter Martin, author and Bloomberg reporter, discussing U.S.-China relations.

The biggest takeaway from our experience is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to advocacy. Just the opposite, actually. Lawmakers on either side of the aisle and our community leaders may need to see different types of metrics to understand our value—just as a large company and a local mom-and-pop shop will offer distinct, but equally valuable, perspectives to our international visitors.  

So while the mission of the Global Ties Network remains constant, our engagements with our local stakeholders must meet them where they are: through accessible, thoughtful, and tailored outreach that demonstrates a nuanced understanding of all the different ways international exchange can (and does) bring value to our community.