Exchange Matters / June 22, 2021

Network DEI Working Group Sets Goals for 2021 and Beyond

By Jacqueline Miller, Chair, Global Ties U.S. Board of Directors

As the United States grapples with a national reckoning around racial justice, and our field grasps the implications of being overwhelmingly homogenous, Global Ties U.S. is working closely with the U.S. Department of State’s Office of International Visitors (OIV) to rethink both how we represent the United States to the world and how we work.

The Global Ties Network is committed to being “part of the solution that advances racial justice and equity,” as Anne Grimes, Director of OIV, wrote in February. Our North Star is a Network that looks like the communities in which we live and work, and programming that reflects our country’s values of pluralism and liberal democracy. And to get there, we must move beyond performative actions and look inward to ensure our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts are meaningful, sustained, and significant.

We have looked to the Network and its diversity of voices and experiences to help guide us, standing up a long-term DEI Working Group consisting of representatives from our Community-Based Members (CBMs), National Program Agencies (NPAs), and U.S. Department of State partners. From DC to Oregon, from South Dakota to New Mexico, the Network is well represented. They have lived and worked and studied around the world and bring to our work this truly global perspective and insistence on the Network becoming better able to fulfill its mission.

As chair of the board of Global Ties U.S., I have the privilege of being a part of this group. It has been humbling to learn from my colleagues: some of the conversations are hard, and some of us are being told of experiences that we have never and will never confront but are everyday occurrences for our colleagues. We have all embraced a learning posture and are committed to developing a community of practice that can support our collective DEI goals, which will focus on examining current practices in International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) implementation and recommend necessary changes to ensure that international visitors experience the rich tapestry that is the United States of America.

We are taking three, immediate concrete steps to launch this work. First, we are defining what diversity means for the IVLP, along with the values we will uphold in our implementation of projects. Second, we’re increasing professional development training for the Network, focusing on DEI within their organizations and exchange programming. And third, we’re identifying best practices around including more diverse voices in our work, including in programming and home hospitality.

This is just for 2021. The Working Group will be reaching out to members of the Network this summer to have more conversations with you about this work plan, to get your ideas, and learn about the challenges and opportunities you’re identifying in your communities. Moving DEI values to the center of our work will take greater intentionality—each of us making an investment in our own organizations, to make a compelling case to our boards and to our supporters as to why this DEI work makes us better able to deliver on the mission that brings us together in the first place.

These are long overdue conversations, and the work is just starting. I am grateful to Anne Grimes and Katherine Brown for prioritizing this work. I encourage you to contribute to this change by participating in the next call for volunteers – you may well be challenged to think in new ways or grow through some uncomfortable conversations. You definitely will be exposed to some of the remarkable people of this Network who are intent on seeing it become a truer reflection of the United States and of exposing international visitors to the promise of U.S. values more fully realized. I look forward to working with all of you to realize that vision.