By Katherine Brown, Ph.D., President and CEO
I’m thrilled to be writing this in March, which means we will soon welcome members and partners of the Global Ties Network to Washington, DC for our 2023 National Meeting. We’re organizing this event after an incredibly productive 2022, which you can read more about in our 2022 Annual Report. But what is not included in there is perhaps the biggest team news we’ve had in years: an office move.
The build-out of a new office space may have seemed counterintuitive as people adjusted to the aftershocks of a global pandemic, but we wanted our work culture to reflect our mission: to build trust by bringing people together. As I’ve previously noted, this is a space designed for our Network, too—a hub for all of us in the heart of our nation’s capital (1000 Vermont Ave, NW). I’m excited for many of our Network members to visit the office – please let us know when you’re in town – and to hear your ideas for our future plans for a living legacy wall, which will provide a testament to the rich history and enduring relevance of this Network to U.S. foreign policy and community development at home.
Celebrating the unique contributions of this Network is top of mind for our 2023 National Meeting, which will take place from March 29-31. Our theme this year is “(Re)Building Community: Globally & Locally.” This is the premier gathering of international exchange and public diplomacy professionals and supporters from government agencies, the private-sector, nonprofit organizations, and academia. For us, it is a unique opportunity to tie our work together: to celebrate our past achievements and to reconnect with and reenergize our current work. Our Network-wide planning team has been working hard to design meaningful sessions on how to conduct international exchanges and public diplomacy as we continue to live with COVID-19, and our plenary sessions will feature leadership from the U.S. Department of State, the 2023 Citizen Diplomat Award recipients, Justin Powell of Youthlinc and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museums, represented by Andrea Bertrand; CEO of AmeriCorps, Michael D. Smith; and a host of other U.S. Department of State leaders, partners, and alumni. We’ll also be celebrating the winners of the IVLP Alumni Award for Social Innovation and Change, and the Global Ties Network Innovation Awards. The full agenda is here, and registration is open through Friday, March 17, so it’s not too late to sign up to join us.
We look forward to welcoming and celebrating our Emerging Leaders at the National Meeting, having just announced this week the 2023 cohort. This program is designed to jumpstart young professionals’ careers in public diplomacy, international exchange, and the broader field of international affairs through opportunities to network, sharpen professional skills and abilities, and build the relationships that will continue to support their professional growth long after their cohort ends. At the National Meeting, we’ll welcome the entire 2023 cohort, as well as seven alumni from the 2021-22 cohorts who missed out on the chance to attend during their program years. We look forward to learning about their service projects in their communities and to following the progress of the current cohort of the year ahead.
During the National Meeting, we’ll also be celebrating the tremendous work of the Global Ties Network Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Working Group. The Working Group is critical in shaping and steering new standards for exchange programming and our organizations to ensure that it is inclusive of individuals and resources that represent the true breadth of diversity in the United States. The Working Group has been active again this quarter and will host a series of sessions during the 2023 National Meeting focused on bringing our Network’s organizations and programming in line with this goal. More information about the Working Group’s mission here.
All of this work this last year has demonstrated to us the need to rethink how we’re collaborating with organizations that have missions that align with ours in international affairs, international exchange, public diplomacy, and community integration. This year, as part of our new strategic framework for the organization, we’re launching a new partnership model. We’ll share more about this in the spring, after the National Meeting. We look forward to new opportunities to amplify our shared priorities, and to connect our partners with the Global Ties Network at the National Meeting and beyond.
In addition, we had a number of great storytelling opportunities in this first quarter of 2023:
- We marked Citizen Diplomacy Day on February 16, which was a day recognized by Congress in 2011 in a resolution to commemorate our organization’s 50th anniversary and our Network’s role in building people-to-people connections through international exchange. This year, we engaged the Global Ties Network on social media, and worked with the National Museum of American Diplomacy on a special story-gathering effort, soliciting photos and stories that show the power of citizen diplomacy.
- We also released a StoryMap that highlighted the 39 ExchangeAlumni project teams who received Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund (CDAF) grants in 2022, sharing their profound impact to increase international connection through community service.
- Finally, our Exchange Matters content covered themes of civic and social justice, and strengthening global health capacities through the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) and other forms of international exchange.
We’re excited about what we have planned for Spring and early Summer 2023:
- Global Ties Forum: In April, we’ll host our first Global Ties Forum event of 2023, which will focus on citizen action to fight climate change. Our Forum events are conversations between emerging and influential leaders aimed at examining how the United States can build trust between local and global communities to advance the partnerships necessary for 21st-century challenges.
- Career Connections: Our first 2023 Career Connections event, a professional development event for U.S. citizen ExchangeAlumni, will kick off in April in Indianapolis, IN. Career Connections events support enterprising U.S. citizen alumni by building on their exchange experiences through professional development and citizen diplomacy opportunities.
- Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund (CDAF): The application period for the 2023 CDAF cycle closes on March 15, meaning we’ll soon have a new slate of passionate exchange alumni working on their service projects. As noted above, the 2022 CDAF Storymap gives a great sense of the impact these projects have.
- Diplomacy Begins Here Regional Summits: Our Summits for 2023 will be announced soon, with new opportunities for local hosts to bring together local, national, and international leaders from the business, government, and nonprofit fields to forge new connections and deepen understanding of U.S. foreign policy and the benefits of exchange programs.
- Exchange Programs: Our Exchanges team will continue to keep busy this spring. The fourth and final cohort of the MENA-USA Empowering Resilient Girls Exchange (MERGE) Program is underway, online courses for the Law Enforcement and Security Exchange Program (LESEP) focused on community policing launch later this month, and travel to Southeast Asia is planned for the Water Smart Engagement (WiSE) Program later this summer.