Our Story

We are the country’s largest and oldest citizen diplomacy network.

Since our founding in 1961, we have fostered connections that break down borders, shatter stereotypes, and create a more peaceful, prosperous world. View a timeline of our history HERE.

“I am convinced that increased participation by dedicated Americans in international exchanges will help to achieve our common hope for a durable and just peace.”
President John F. Kennedy, 1961

This was President Kennedy’s vision for Global Ties U.S. when it was founded by his Administration in 1961, and it remains so today. We believe that international exchanges create the foundation for cooperation, respect, and social trust between leaders in government, business, and civil society. They are a powerful tool to build alliances to tackle our toughest transnational challenges.

We also believe that exchanges enrich U.S. communities, both economically and socially. Through the Global Ties Network, nearly 90 communities across the United States are connected to the world through international exchange programs. By implementing these programs, our U.S.-based members invest in their local economies, advance knowledge, and increase global competencies. International exchanges help our members create new partnerships with the world’s emerging leaders, while also deepening their relationships within their own communities. Our Network also includes international members, often representing alumni of U.S. exchange programs, who are eager to sustain the dialogue critical for international collaboration.

Collectively, we are a Network of citizen ambassadors committed to building the social trust that is foundational to peace and prosperity, both globally and locally, through international exchange. Diplomacy begins here. 

Our Impact

As international exchange and public diplomacy professionals, members of the Global Ties Network are committed to building trust with the world’s leaders and within their communities at home. Global Ties U.S. was originally created to support the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), our country’s foundational international exchange program. The IVLP was formed during World War II with the conviction that we can build stronger global alliances, essential for a durable and just peace, through our citizens. Over the last six decades, we’ve grown into a Network of 120+ organizations that represent all 50 U.S. states and more than 20 countries. 

The Global Ties Network  implements the IVLP and a wide variety of educational, cultural, and professional exchange programs. Our members are exchange professionals who provide the domestic infrastructure for U.S. public diplomacy efforts.

Through Global Ties U.S. specifically, we work with the Network to foster collaboration between U.S. and international counterparts in business, education, government, and the public, private, nonprofit sectors. We’re also  supporting the recruitment of U.S. youth and cultural performers for the USA Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai (to commence in October 2021).

These efforts have an important annual impact here within the U.S. Each year, our Network:

  • Welcomes 5,000+ international exchange participants to U.S. communities, in-person and virtually
  • Invests 10:1 the amount of federal funding received back into the U.S. economy during in-person visits 
  • Engages 34,000+ volunteers in 410,000+ hours of community service

“A lasting, positive impact on U.S. economies, communities, and citizens.”

When international exchange participants travel to the United States, they experience first-hand U.S. pluralism and diversity, and they see the strength of our country’s institutions, civil society, and enduring values. Exchanges also:

  • Enhance our national security through building trust and alliances with the world’s leaders 
  • Help local businesses learn how better to compete in a global marketplace
  • Prepare individuals for success in an increasingly transnational workplace
  • Connect U.S. and international counterparts to find solutions to local challenges together

For more than 60 years, members of the Global Ties Network have created indelible, positive change within the United States while also building the international relationships essential for peace and prosperity. They are community organizers, leaders, investors, and citizen diplomats, creating opportunity for their cities and building trust for their nation.    

Looking Ahead

In 2020, Global Ties U.S. introduced its three year strategic plan with four goals. The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t disrupt our efforts to meet them, it accelerated our work. 

Our first goal is to support Global Ties U.S. members in their drive for high performance and organizational sustainability by providing top-notch professional development tools and opportunities. Throughout 2020, we tripled our member services to help our Network pivot to virtual exchange programming and continue their role as critical public diplomacy and international exchange professionals. In November, in partnership with the U.S. Department of State and Soliya, we launched the Virtual Exchange Academy to help our Members build new digital skills, as virtual programming will be part of international exchanges long after the virus has passed.

The second goal is to create a centralized storytelling hub for the international exchange field, illuminating stories of community, resilience, innovation, and impact from our international exchange colleagues through our Exchange Matters content. Our Members have also proliferated the channels within which they connect with program alumni around the world. Recognizing the vital need for cross-border connection and cooperation in the face of a transnational health crisis, our Members leveraged our virtual environment to create more two-way, sustained dialogues with exchange program alumni, participants, and partners throughout the United States. 

The third goal is to maintain an effective organization that aligns people and processes to drive for high performance and sustainable success. We believe at the heart of this is our ability to create a diverse, equitable and inclusive work environment. We’re examining closely how we can improve our DEI efforts in our organizational and operational policies and practices, our programs, and through our communications. This is especially essential for international exchange, as it is critical that our Network and programming reflects the United States and our values of pluralism and liberal democracy. 

The fourth goal is to diversify funding and program opportunities for Global Ties U.S. and its members by partnering with federal and private sector entities, higher education institutions, and other NGOs to establish innovative and effective international exchange programs. As public diplomacy and exchange professionals, our Members are eager for more opportunities to connect the United States to the world and increase the scale of exchange programs. 

We also are investing in the future. We want to build a talent pipeline of globally-minded young professionals who represent the United States and the international community at large through our Emerging Leaders Program. Ten years ago, we launched the Emerging Leaders Program to discover and promote the next generation of diverse leaders through unique professional development and mentorship opportunities. Today, the program includes more than 150 alumni who have pursued careers, leadership roles, and/or higher education in globally-focused fields including local, federal, and international government, international relations/exchanges, business, and more. Alumni remain connected to the program, many helping to mentor and support future leaders. 

Global Ties U.S. is committed to modernizing exchange programs, building a more inclusive and diverse international exchange field, and to serving our Network members in their missions. Our call to service, to foster connections that break down borders and shatter stereotypes, has never been more relevant. 

Together, we are building the social trust that is foundational to peace and prosperity, both globally and locally, via international exchange.