Network Innovation Spotlight / April 28, 2022

In Their Own Words: Moving Exchange Forward

By Margaret Pfeifle, Communications Intern, Global Ties U.S.

Global Ties U.S. was thrilled to honor Network colleagues for their leadership and innovation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic with the Network Innovation Award, debuted at the 2022 National Meeting, and awarded to three teams: the Virtual Programming Champions, the Forward Planning Working Group, and the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) Working Group. 

Over the past two years, the work of these three teams was crucial to keeping exchanges like the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) active, maintaining critical relationships and building new ones, and ensuring inclusivity for all of those involved.  

Individually, each team examined exchange programming through a different lens—from creating and implementing quick turnaround processes for running smooth virtual exchanges, to developing a long-term vision and offering immediate steps to improve DEIA in our organizations and programming. Taken together, the contributions of each of these three Network teams provided us with a comprehensive vision for moving exchange forward.  

The Virtual Programming Champions 

Within the Virtual Programming Champions, individual members cited the importance of being flexible and adapting to conditions beyond one’s control, as well as an openness to create new opportunities from them. “For me, moving exchanges forward means embracing uncertainty and leading more courageously,” said Lisa Bennett, World Learning.  

Laura Carroll, FHI 360, agreed, adding “With both the transition to virtual and re-transition back to in-person, there are so many variables and unknowns that it feels a lot like driving in the dark. But using the goals of public diplomacy, we’ve been able to get where we need to go, moving one step forward at a time.” 

To sum it all up, Anise Jasman-Sayers, World Affairs Council of New Hampshire, said, “To work collectively as a contributor to the VP Champions was inspiring and an honor. The important work we have done has helped to create virtual best practices and drive the Network forward in our diplomacy mission; no obstacle will stop us!” 

The Forward Planning Working Group 

Colleagues in the Forward Planning Working Group (FPWG) observed that moving exchange forward involves recognizing the potential that the next generation of exchanges offers, and embracing new methods of engaging communities. 

We learned over the past two years that our exchange program models are both durable and flexible,” said Sarah Belousov, Office of International Visitors. “Through creativity and teamwork, we found new ways to connect people from around the world with their U.S. counterparts during times of critical need.” 

Patricia Harrison, World Learning, agreed that it consists of making the most of every possibility. “Moving exchange forward means constantly rethinking what we are trying to achieve and then finding the most effective ways to do it—not just relying on traditional practices, but using new technology and knowledge to continuously improve our programs,” she said. 

The Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Working Group 

Members of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Working Group all agreed that moving exchange forward requires intentional work to share diverse experiences, new ideas, fresh perspectives, empathy, and compassion. 

“Moving exchange forward means acknowledging the past and critically analyzing the present to contribute to a future that holistically celebrates and supports the richness that comes from a diverse nation,” said Andrea Vanessa Castillo, WorldOregon. “It means emphasizing the two-way dialogue and sharing the incredible work being done across the world and right next door.” 

Amy Alice Chastain, Global Ties Iowa, recognized that putting in the effort towards inclusive dialogue and collaboration helps to move exchange forward. “It means taking huge steps forward in combating the myths and lies that have taken hold of so much of our global societal sound bites and taking back the humanity of relationships fostered by citizen diplomacy and person-to-person exchange” 

Yuriria Morales Sanchez, Global Ties ABQ, summarizes the thoughts of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Working Group on the equality of opportunity well: “Moving exchange forward means we are given the opportunity to bring the world to EVERY member of our community, and in turn, we are showcasing our ENTIRE community to the world. As we continue with this amazing journey, we are given even more opportunity to foster diplomacy, education, understanding, skillsets and mutual respect across our diverse platform.”

Across all three teams, recipients of the 2022 Network Innovation Award underscored the importance of community, collaboration, and shared values. Team members cited these strengths as being key not only to the work of these groups, but also to the IVLP and the power of each individual to move exchange forward.  

“Dedicated collaboration amongst National Program Agencies, Community-Based Members, and the Office of International Visitors is central to the future of the IVLP,” Sara Delson, Office of International Visitors, said. “The highly committed, collaborative work that the FPWG did to prepare the pivot to virtual, and the work continually being done by it, seems to move the Network further forward every day.”  

Learn more about the Network Innovation Award, and read more recipient reflections here.