Exchange Matters / August 24, 2016

YLAI: Innovative Exchange Through “Glocalization”

Cutting-edge programming in a complex global environment must be informed by policy goals, tailored for individual participants and partners, and designed to result in maximum impact for each stakeholder. It is dually challenging and exhilarating for our network. Programs such as the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) represent a unique opportunity for our network to shine in its implementation of a high-visibility, high-priority program with massive economic and security implications on the bilateral, regional, and global scale.

Building on the successes of similar programs in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia President Obama in April 2015 launched YLAI to create and expand opportunities for young entrepreneurs and civil society leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean. YLAI aims to promote local economic growth and development to facilitate global economic growth and development, which benefits linkages between and among countries and promotes peace and prosperity. This fall, 18 community-based members in 21 city hubs will host 250 YLAI Fellows from 35 countries for a program which seeks to build capacity and strengthen networks across and within the Americas through training, workshops, and mentorship, as well as a high-level summit with government, business, and nonprofit leaders. More than a one-time event, this is a sustainable engagement initiative which hopes to generate $1 billion for emerging business and social entrepreneurs by the end of 2017 by helping fellows attract new investments and in-kind resources for their businesses or organizations each year. Moreover, 45 American Fellowship hosts will participate next spring in a “reverse exchange” to countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to continue and elevate engagement with the region.

The YLAI Professional Fellows Program offers participants “an opportunity to develop and strengthen their entrepreneurship ventures at home, drive economic growth as they expand their outreach, and network both regionally and globally,” said Thea Richard, YLAI Project Director at Meridian International Center’s GlobalConnect division. “In turn, fellowship hosts will learn about the business atmosphere in [participant’s] home regions and get some business advice.” She highlighted the emphasis on the two-way nature of the exchange as central to YLAI’s unique nature. While bolstering growth through the United States and the participants’ home countries’ parallel commitment to economic stimulation, unlike parallel lines, the prosperity of all countries involved will also intersect in the form of strengthened diplomatic and economic relations.

YLAI’s focus on entrepreneurship and empowerment underscores the strategic importance of economic interconnectedness. The “glocalization” perspective offered is indicative of a changing world community and affords our network a position of premonition into the future of exchange.

Another important facet of innovation unique to the program is its commitment to one-on-one involvement between Fellowship participants and hosts. Instead of a survey of many different industry leaders, participants Program will be “embedded” within one business to gain a comprehensive look into that organization’s role in the local economy, learn and experience best practices within the industry, and engage in creative idea sharing. While the benefits of one-on-one matching are considerable, this method requires a more extensive selection process to identify strengths, interests, and best possible organization for each Fellow, a process that will be an opportunity for those community-based members working on YLAI to build capacity and grow new partnerships.

All the best to our colleagues at Meridian and at the community-based members across the U.S. for a successful program this fall—we look forward to spotlighting YLAI success stories once the program is underway!

by Jeanne Briganti and Ellie Solloway, Global Ties U.S. Photo Courtesy of Global Ties Miami.