SACIV had the pleasure to represent San Antonio’s growing presence in international exchange at the 2019 Global Ties National Meeting in Washington, D.C. The meeting was a great occasion for members of the SACIV staff and Board to discuss with other partners in the Global Ties network the opportunities and challenges for international exchange.
At the meeting, community-based members (CBMs) like SACIV representing every corner of the United States joined national programming agencies (NPAs) who organize delegations on behalf of the State Department. Together, there were great opportunities to interface on the current state of the network.
Events began Wednesday with a meeting on Capitol Hill to learn about the importance of advocacy for international exchanges. Speakers re-emphasized the bipartisan support for exchange programs like the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) and spoke at length about the economic and diplomatic benefits that come from facilitating exchanges around the United States.
Then began a series of sessions to help attendees learn more about non-profit development, programming for IVLP exchanges, and the work of other members of the network. Being able to talk directly to peers at other CBMs about the work we all do programming exchanges at the local level was definitely beneficial and provided plenty of ideas for best displaying our communities.
That Thursday, sessions on social media utilization and public-private partnerships were among the fare to be had. The Citizen Diplomacy Luncheon that followed was a real treat. It starred a featured resource from the network, Serve2Unite, who work to combat hatred and violent extremism by building bridges in their community. Started by a Sikh man and a former white supremacist, their work truly impressed everyone in the crowd.
The rest of the day allowed time for networking, touring the booths of D.C.-based partners, and learning more about best practices in exchange. That night, each member of the SACIV delegation was treated to an embassy reception. At the Finnish Embassy, Immediate Past Chair Betsy Cameron and Program Coordinator John Wingert were personally greeted by the Ambassador and enjoyed talking to the embassy staff and network partners about the bidirectional successes of international exchange.
The next day’s luncheon awarded members of the network for their hard work, and highlighted the excellence of former IVLP participants who had leveraged their exchange experience for sustained impact whether in the name of women’s rights or improved water access for poor and rural areas.
On Saturday, Executive Director Cecilia Cross participated in a panel discussion on “Programming Sensitive Topics” with representatives of GlobalMinnesota and the Human Rights Council. Cecilia spoke about SACIV’s successes in dealing with contentious and emotional issues like human trafficking and immigration. It all comes down to an understanding of the issues, your community, and the best ways to hold a productive, but sensible discussion. By the time that session finished, however, it was time for members of the SACIV team to return to San Antonio.
We left Washington with more information to use in our own work but also with important contacts who will be valued partners to reach out to about future projects or programming ideas. Everyone is ready to start using that information and to return to DC next year!