By Lauren Krull, Program Coordinator, Northern Nevada International Center
Advocacy for support and funding for international exchange programs can be daunting, but through the USGLC NextGen Global Leaders Network I have become more comfortable by creating my personal strategies for advocacy at all levels. The NextGen program is a yearlong program for young professionals to learn and hone advocacy skills and build their network of globally minded professionals.
Through the program, I have been able to connect USGLC’s advocacy priorities and strategies to our advocacy work at the Northern Nevada International Center. Below are some of the key tools and strategies I’ve learned that all Global Ties Network Members can draw on to become more comfortable with or build on to strengthen their own advocacy skills.
An effective advocacy tool is storytelling. Statistics and explanations of the importance of citizen international diplomacy are great, but pairing them with an individual story that connects the investment in exchanges and local level impacts is much more compelling. Luckily, exchange programs produce limitless impact stories and evidence of the benefits of the programs. Researching your audience ahead of time is key in order to tell a story that resonates with them personally.
Engaging influential community members with your organization or involving them in your exchange programs whenever possible is another powerful tool. This first-hand experience programs helps them understand the reality of the programs, leading to more vocal support of exchanges. For example, in summer of 2021 the Mayor of Reno met with the virtual Mandela Washington Fellows. This served as a cultural and professional connection for the Fellows and to re-engage our community in the midst of limited visitor programming due to the pandemic. Following the meeting, the mayor shared that she was encouraged to see the young entrepreneur leaders creating business opportunities in their home countries, similar to her own entrepreneurial journey, and showed interest in future opportunities to engage with international visitors.
Advocacy is a skill that requires nurturing. I think of myself as a constant advocate for international exchange programs. Practice makes perfect, so as I continually share the importance of the programs, I become more comfortable and learn additional ways to appeal to different kinds people. Through this constant advocacy, I am targeting my community—everyday U.S. citizens—therefore creating more local resources and more advocates. Community-level advocacy is a way to build confidence and practice strategies; it can even start with your family and friends!
The USGLC NextGen Global Leaders Network has been a great learning opportunity as someone who works in diplomacy programs and recognizes the importance of promoting global engagement in local communities.