Exchange Matters / September 7, 2023

The Leadership Corner – September 2023

By Katherine Brown, Ph.D., President and CEO

Hello, Global Ties Network Members and Partners. Unbelievably, we’re in the final quarter of 2023 and we’ve been busier than ever creating and supporting opportunities with our nationwide Network to have more citizens engaged in international affairs. 

Before I dive into our updates and future opportunities, I’m excited to tell you about the Global Ties U.S. Community Impact Study: A unique, data-driven analysis of the socio-cultural impacts of international exchange programs on U.S. communities and citizens. We’ve been working for years with our partners at the University of Southern California (USC) Center on Public Diplomacy to quantify the impact of exchange programs like the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) here at home. You can read the full study HERE, but I want to summarize the main findings:  

  • International exchange programs humanize global affairs for U.S. citizens and inspire curiosity about the world, with more than 80% of survey respondents reporting increases in global knowledge and cultural competence.   
  • U.S. participation in international exchange programs encourages local civic engagement and deepens community inclusion, with 77% of respondents reporting greater interest in participating in local events or activities sponsored by groups representing a national heritage different from their own.    
  • Engaging with international visitors provides U.S. communities with opportunities for economic growth and workforce development, with 80% of respondents agreeing that exchange programs enhanced the image of their community, and 77% reporting gains to their organization or personal reputation.  
  • U.S. participation in exchange programs provides greater international connectivity, with almost one in three respondents (32%) reporting that they have stayed in touch with international contacts they made through participating in international exchanges.   

We hope you can use this data in your work. And here are some of the activities we’ve been focused on to drive these outcomes.

Diplomacy Begins Here Summits in Burlington, VT & Kansas City, MO. Our regional Diplomacy Begins Here Summits and Learning Labs convene leaders in business, government, and nonprofit organizations to forge new connections with local communities around U.S. foreign policy, public diplomacy, and to explore how exchange programs such as the IVLP play a role in each. On August 20-21, in partnership with the Vermont Council on World Affairs (VCWA) and the Office of International Visitors at the U.S. Department of State, we gathered in Burlington, VT for Diplomacy Begins Here: Building an Inclusive Climate Movement. Local, national, and international speakers addressed a variety of related topics, including promoting civic engagement among the youth, climate resilience, environmental justice, and building diverse networks. I was personally impacted by the Summit presentations on the imperative of building inclusive solutions to mitigate climate change and the responsibilities my family and I have in supporting a circular, clean energy economy. Bravo to the VCWA team.  

Next up: Kansas City. On September 21-22 members of our Network will travel to Missouri for Diplomacy Begins Here: Shaping Foreign Policy from the Heartland. Hosted in partnership with Global Ties KC, this Summit will explore how the Heartland has been significant through history in connecting local communities to U.S. foreign policy, and how it continues to be so today. 

From left: Pete Botjer, Global Ties U.S., Amy Alice Chastain, Global Ties Iowa, and Sewell Gelberd, Columbia Council for Internationals. Photo by Syejeong Kim.

We also love convening members of our nationwide Network in Washington. We were thrilled to re-start our in-person Network DC program in July with Amy Alice Chastain of Global Ties Iowa and Sewell Gelberd of Columbia Council for Internationals. This program is specifically designed for Community-Based Member (CBM) representatives to highlight their community and meet face-to-face with the key Washington, DC players responsible for the IVLP at the national level. In August, we also brought to town community leaders who are on the planning committee for our 2024 National Meeting, which will take place March 5-8, 2024 in Crystal City, VA. 

Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Liz Allen speaks with ExchangeAlumni at Career Connections DC. Photo by Global Ties U.S.

U.S. ExchangeAlumni Programs. We work with the Office of Alumni Affairs at the U.S. Department of State to engage alumni of U.S.-government sponsored exchange programs in foreign affairs and with our Network. In June, we hosted our second Career Connections event of 2023, this time in Washington, DC, and brought together 100 alumni at the U.S. Department of State around the theme, Careers in the Federal Government. Among the highlights was a talk with the newly confirmed Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Liz Allen, who gave spot-on advice on how to build a meaningful career in public service. Our next Career Connections event will be hosted in partnership with Global Ties San Francisco September 23-24 with the theme, Technology and Entrepreneurship. Are you an alum of an exchange program and want to learn more? Click HERE.

Nigerian youth performers at their final showcase in August 2023. Photo by the Once Upon a Future 2023 CDAF project team. (Photo from the CDAF team’s Instagram)

Meanwhile, we passed the midpoint of the 2023 Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund. The 47 winning teams have been pursuing their public service projects around the globe (see HERE) on topics that address foreign policy goals. We are excited to follow along with their progress and we look forward to sharing updates when they wrap up their work in the fall. The participants in these programs inspire me and I hope they will inspire you, too. 

U.S. and ASEAN water professionals discuss water management. Picture by Global Ties U.S.

We’ve also been working on a new alumni initiative, Impact of Exchange: Stories from U.S. Exchange Alumni, which depicts citizen diplomacy in action. In collaboration with the Office of Alumni Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and Photoville, this traveling exhibit features photos and stories of exchange programs and aims to inspire audiences to become more globally engaged. Our member organization, the World Affairs Council of Maine, is currently hosting the first stop for the exhibit in Portland. We hope this exhibit will spark curiosity and illustrate that what seems foreign can be familiar for diverse U.S. audiences. The exhibit travel to five U.S. communities under-represented in study abroad and international exchange. You can stay updated on the schedule and learn more HERE.

Exchange Programs Activity. We’ve also been honored to work with several partners in facilitating international exchange programs that support such diverse policy objectives as smarter water conservation, inclusive law enforcement, and building resilience among teen girls. Our Exchanges Team traveled to Singapore and across Southeast Asia for Singapore International Water Week in support of our WiSE program. For our Law Enforcement and Security Exchange Program, they provided participants with trainings and resources on internal affairs, gender-based violence, community policing, and crime prevention. In addition, they wrapped up work with the Stevens Initiative at the Aspen Institute on our MENA-USA Empowering Resilient Girls Exchange (MERGE) Program, which was designed to inspire teen girls to learn about their own mental health and develop emotional resilience skills – and, in turn, share this knowledge with their communities. You can read more about the impact of this last program, which has had extraordinary reach, HERE

The 2023 Emerging Leaders and program alumni onstage at the Global Ties U.S. 2023 National Meeting. Photo by Kristoffer Tripplaar.

The Emerging Leaders Program: Consistent with our work to support young professionals via MERGE, our long-standing Emerging Leaders Program has engaged more than 150 young international affairs leaders in professional development programs since launching in 2011. Emerging Leaders are offered opportunities to network with professionals in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors; strengthen professional skills and abilities; and build the relationships that will continue to support their professional growth. In November, our 2023 Emerging Leaders cohort will share the culmination of their service projects to their communities to keep their cities globally connected.  

Recruitment for our 2024 Emerging Leaders cohort is underway. If you know an incredible young professional working in our Network, consider nominating them to help jumpstart their career. We also hope you will consider contributing to this program, which is 100% donor-funded. You can read about the experiences this program makes possible here.

Global Ties Forum: Our Global Ties Forum conversation series examines how the United States can build trust between local and global communities to advance the partnerships necessary for 21st-century challenges. In June, we marked World Refugee Day with a Global Ties Forum on national and local refugee support initiatives, which are strengthening communities nationwide. This has been a dimension of the Global Ties Network for decades and we were thrilled to host our partner organization Welcome.US and elevate voices within our Network , including Ahmad Zia Afzali at Utah Global Diplomacy, Carina Black, Ph.D., at Northern Nevada International Center, and Sarah Gal at WorldOrlando who are supporting their communities and IVLP alumni through their work with refugees. You can find the recording and additional resources here. 

On September 13 we’ll host the next installment of our Global Ties Forum series with a special screening of the Oscar-nominated documentary Stranger At The Gate. The event will include a conversation with the director and lead subject, as well as audience Q&A. You can RSVP for that event HERE. Keep your eyes on your inbox, as we will have information about additional Global Ties Forum events in the coming weeks.  

Finally, we are saying goodbye to some wonderful leaders within the Global Ties Network. From the Office of International Visitors at the U.S. Department of State, we are preparing to say goodbye to the extraordinary Anne Grimes, who has provided critical leadership to the IVLP and this Network throughout the pandemic. Her deputy, Ali Baskey, also left in July for his next assignment. We’ll forever be indebted to them and wish them well with their next adventures. From our Community-Based Members (CBMs), Peggy Parfenoff is stepping down as President and CEO of WorldChicago after an incredible 22-year career, and Annette Green Alvarez retired as Executive Director of Global Ties Miami after more than two decades of work within the Global Ties Network. We are so grateful for the incredible work these four have done for the field of international exchange and public diplomacy, and the work Peggy and Annette did for their local communities in Chicago and Miami, respectively. We will keep them close.  

That’s all for now. As always, remember to stay updated on all our work by connecting with us on our social channels (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram), and by signing up for our email communications.