Exchange Matters / December 15, 2020

The Leadership Corner: October-December 2020

Hello Global Ties Community:

I’m very happy to be writing you during the last month of 2020. A heartfelt Happy New Year to all of you.

This Network has been through a tremendous deal. But it is headed into 2021 with new resolve, new skills, and a renewed, even deeper sense of community. The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) was borne from World War II with the conviction that we can build trust and stronger alliances through our citizens. It has helped to forge critical relationships through many conflicts, the end of the Cold War, financial crises, the 9/11 terrorist attacks — and now, in its 80th year, a global pandemic. Perhaps it’s fitting that, during this programming pause, we were all able to reflect on the impact of exchange programs, rethink how we can advance them, and take some time to reconnect with program alumni.

All of you have leveraged our virtual environment to create more two-way, sustained dialogues with alumni and your communities. You’ve deepened those relationships during a time when international cooperation is essential for our country’s peace and prosperity, much like it was eight decades ago. Your quest to sustain those connections virtually also helped to modernize IVLP and other programs, as we know that even when the visitors return to the United States, we’ll continue to also engage them virtually to make exchanges more effective. We’re honored to help you with this further, through our newly launched Virtual Exchange Academy. For this edition of Exchange Matters, I’m also thrilled to have in here contributions from Christopher Washington – outgoing Chair of the Global Ties U.S. Board of Directors – Ambassador Barbara Stephenson, Patricia Harrison, and Robin Lerner on what the future of international exchange looks like.

Last, I want to thank all of you for your trust in Global Ties U.S. the last few months as worked to help you navigate this year, while navigating it ourselves. To this end, I’d like to take a minute to acknowledge the Global Ties U.S. team.

With my daughter being born in January and then us moving to a virtual work space six weeks later, I’ve barely spent time with them in-person this year. We also welcomed and on-boarded eight new team members, seven of whom have only known us as a virtual team. I worry about their wellbeing not just because of the pandemic and their individual personal challenges, but because they have been working in overdrive. They didn’t just maintain our program work, they tripled member services and webinars; launched a new USA Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai project; developed new proposals and advocated to get much-needed federal money to the Network; recalibrated our fundraising efforts to support members; overhauled our communications operations; and strengthened our operations to keep us feeling supported while working from home. They also got creative with our workdays, making our virtual weekly staff meetings fun and organizing breaks, meditation sessions, and game nights. The team constantly looked out for one another, and for me as a new mom. As a result, they didn’t just keep our organization afloat, they advanced 60% of our strategic plan goals to elevate our mission while reinforcing a collaborative work culture I’m so proud to be part of. They knew that the stronger we were as a team, the better position we would be in to serve you.

They deserve some time off, so the Global Ties U.S. virtual office will be closed December 24-January 3 so that they can truly check out. I hope you all, too, get adequate rest this holiday season as there is no doubt you’ve also been working in overdrive.

I am thrilled to now focus on Global Ties U.S.’s 60th Anniversary year, during which we’ll be celebrating this extraordinary community, which has become the professional backbone for exchanges and public diplomacy programs inside the United States. Whatever happens in 2021 and beyond, we’ll be ready for it due to your creativity, adaptability and commitment to your collective missions, IVLP, and to one another as a larger community. In January, you’ll hear more about plans for our first-ever virtual National Meeting when we’ll bring you all together in mid-March. While we work out a few more details, we can tell you that the theme of the meeting — and the year — will be Exchange Matters, as you all have demonstrated again and again how much it truly does.

See you in 2021!

All the best,