Exchange Matters / April 15, 2021

The Leadership Corner – April 2021

Hello Global Ties Network,

There were a few moments during the Global Ties U.S. (virtual) National Meeting when my eyes welled up with tears of gratitude for this Network. I was so proud that more than 900 attendees were able to watch this community come together to celebrate 60 years of impact in unlocking the power of international exchange programs for critical foreign policy priorities, like our climate and strengthening democratic institutions; and also for your communities and local economies.

As we heard repeatedly, foreign policy is domestic policy — the two are interchangeable and, as the largest and most established public and sub-national diplomacy Network in the country, the work you collectively do is unmatched in simultaneously supporting both.

Our latest economic impact data, pre-pandemic, show that Community-Based Members created $69 million in economic activity. For IVLP alone, the return on federal investment was 11:1. In 2019, the Network hosted 5,328 IVLP participants from 183 countries, and an additional 5,500 participants from other exchange programs, proving once again that this Network has become the domestic backbone for U.S. public diplomacy efforts. By being the remarkable force multipliers that you are, you also engaged 28,500 volunteers in nearly 283,800 hours of service across the United States.

While we will not have similar statistics for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, your contributions were nonetheless profound: you made a Herculean shift (“pivot” doesn’t match the level of effort) to virtual exchange programs, kept your communities engaged, sustained critical dialogue with alumni, and broadened your organizational capacity to take on more programming. This was painstaking work, but you made it look easy. I have no doubt that this Network will be part of the solution in your communities’ post-pandemic recovery. But we have a lot of work to do in the months ahead to create a new normal. Exchange programming will likely continue to look different — with virtual components and an intentional focus on diversity and inclusion — but the timeless work of building much-needed international alliances through our citizens has never been more urgent.

This last year, we reimagined everything. At Global Ties U.S., that included our mission statement. We wanted to make sure you were at the center of it. Therefore, our new statement is: Powering individuals, communities, and nations to build trust and advance peace and prosperity through international exchange.

Sixty years after our founding, we are a Network of more than 120 local, national, and international organizations representing all 50 U.S. states, and more than 20 countries. Our members are exchange professionals who provide the domestic infrastructure for U.S. public and subnational diplomacy efforts, and build the social trust that is foundational to peace and prosperity, both globally and locally, through international exchange.

We believe at Global Ties U.S., that Diplomacy Begins Here. It begins with all of you.

With much gratitude,