Exchange Matters / August 9, 2022

WorldChicago Reflects on Hosting Regional Summit

By Jasemen Hatcher, Development Manager, WorldChicago 

Each year, the U.S. Department of State, in partnership with Global Ties U.S., sponsors the Diplomacy Begins Here Regional Summit in communities across the United States to bring attention to the critical role that citizen diplomacy plays in building a more peaceful and prosperous world at home and abroad.  

For the first time in two years, the Diplomacy Begins Here Regional Summit took place in person, with WorldChicago and Freeport Area International Visitors Council hosting the event on July 20–22. The event’s theme was “Connecting Diverse Communities Through Diplomacy,” and participants explored community engagement and working with government leaders through an equity lens. Many of our sessions, keynotes, and workshops engaged participants from high school and leadership organizations focused on civic diplomacy and shaping the narrative of international exchange within the Chicago community. 

Chicago, a City in a Garden 

This three-day Summit kicked off at the historic Palmer House hotel. WorldChicago welcomed participants with a famous Architectural Boat tour. Guests toured along the Chicago River and learned about the spectacular architectural history of downtown Chicago.

After the Architectural Boat Tour, guests sampled Chicago’s international cuisine. This program curated by WorldChicago took guests to some of the most quintessentially Chicagoan places where they learned about their respective neighborhoods. Attendees first went to Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria to taste Chicago-style pizza. The restaurant chain is headquartered in the River North neighborhood of Illinois and was founded by the son of Rudy Malnati, who was instrumental in developing the recipe for deep-dish, Chicago-style pizza. 

The River North neighborhood is an ultra-urban district of sleek art galleries and studios, all tucked away into former warehouse buildings. It is one of the communities where Chicago’s historic architecture blends with modern design.  

Guests also tried The Northman, a European-style Beer and Cider Garden located on the scenic Chicago Riverwalk. This part of Chicago is a popular recreation area and has lots of opportunities for residents and visitors to interact with and enjoy the river.  

Participants also visited Greek Island, a tavern offering diverse Greek cuisine on South Halsted; an iconic Greek neighborhood. Now a commercial district on the Near West Side, Greektown was once home to Chicago’s Greek immigrant community and its cultural heritage remains integral to the neighborhood. 

The History of Diplomacy 

Day 2 began with a visit to Freeport, a city famous for pretzels, which has earned it the nickname “Pretzel City USA.” Freeport International Visitors Council, a Global Ties U.S. Community-Based Member, hosted the Learning Lab for representatives from Global Ties Network partners at Community-Based Members, National Program Agencies, and the Office of International Visitors. The full-day Learning Lab engaged participants in sessions about working with government leaders, strengthening board and CEO relationships, and increasing community engagement. 

Participants heard from Illinois State Senator Brian Stewart; Nazgul Toktosunova from the U.S. Department of State, Steve Fricke, President of the Stephenson County Farm Bureau; Sara Stephenson Peska, Attorney at Law; and Todd Jenkins, Founder & CEO of Bowtie Leadership & Development, Inc. Sessions focused on the challenges and ideas needed to engage communities and to understand the work of International Visitor Leadership Program members and organizations as well as the importance of community participation and delegation programming.  

The day wrapped up with Global Ties U.S. members sharing best practices and innovative ways to refine program delivery by moving toward inclusivity and equity.  

Diversifying Voices 

The final day of the Summit started with Stacy White, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, who welcomed participants to the event and thanked all the IVLP members who make fostering mutual understanding possible through their work and who connect communities. 

Keynote speaker Jhmira Alexander, President & Executive Director of Public Narrative, explored the vibrancy of Chicago and reminded participants that “the highest value is not in our agency, but in the relationships” we create through fostering diplomacy.  

 The Summit was divided into two tracks. Track 1 focused on youth interested in future careers involving foreign policy and other international careers. Track 2 focused on U.S. Department of State programming and exchanges through the lens of diversity. 

The Gap in Trans-professional Diplomacy 

During the afternoon session, panelists explored the concept of trans-professional diplomacy, which seeks to expand the notion of diplomacy by applying it across different fields and sectors.  

“The gap between the world, as it is and how it should be, can be resolved if we no longer numb ourselves but lean in and embrace the changes that need to bridge the gap.” – Sana Syed

David Wellman, Associate Professor and the Director of The Grace School of Applied Diplomacy at DePaul University; Christopher Tirres, Professor of Religious Studies at DePaul; Geoffrey Wiseman, Professor of Religious Studies at DePaul; and Sana Syed, Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) spoke with participants about trans-professional diplomacy. 

The real question is not “what is trans professional diplomacy? But how can we enact trans-professional diplomacy and live like trans-professional diplomats, considering trans-professional diplomacy from noun to an adjective or adverb?” 

Participants in the Student Track heard from Payge Jennings, U.S. Alumni Coordinator in the Office of Alumni Affairs at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs; Peter Kovach, Retired Senior Foreign Service Officer; Elio Leturia, Associate Professor at Columbia College and a Fulbright Program alum; and Alison Moylan, Deputy Directors of the Office of International Visitors in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. 

Youth ended their day with a diplomacy simulation led by Elizabeth Gearheart, the Public Affairs Specialist at the National Museum of American Diplomacy. The students were led through role-playing scenarios where they took on the parts of key stakeholders in a hypothetical crisis. High schoolers from all around the city of Chicago collaborated and developed problem-solving and critical thinking skills. 

Diplomacy and the Need for Diversity 

Diplomacy has not always reflected diversity, but IVLP members and the community of Chicago are looking to change that by incorporating inclusivity into their work. 

The final session of the Diplomacy Begins Here Regional Summit was led by Appreccia D. Faulkner, Founder and CEO of Global Strategists Association; Asha Castleberry-Hernandez, Senior Advisor in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and Major in the U.S. Army Reserve; Barbara Barreno-Paschall, Commissioner with the State of Illinois Human Rights Commission; and Ted Williams III, Chairman of the Social Sciences Department at Kennedy-King College.  

Panelists explored the need for greater accountability in IVLP programming which offers the opportunity for greater investments within marginalized communities most impacted by foreign policy. An informative Q & A discussed the impact of inclusive programming and how international communities perceive Chicagoans. The session ended with a standing ovation for our panelists. 

Participants left the final session making a greater commitment to equitable programming and curating more inclusive designs to reach underserved communities. 

WorldChicago would like to thank all the partners within the U.S. Department of State, Global Ties U.S., Freeport Area International Visitors Council, and the city of Chicago for sharing their expertise and participating in this year’s Summit.