This blog is a companion to the interview with Christopher Washington and Jennifer Clinton on Voice America “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on February 28, 2017, focusing on building a peaceful and prosperous world through citizen diplomacy.
During an era in which we hear the ongoing call of “Putting America First” and “Making America Great Again,” why would we care about an international focus on citizen diplomacy?
My good friend and mentor Dr. Christopher Washington and I were having lunch recently, and we discussed the topic of his work with Global Ties U.S. He knows I care about global leadership and believe that we have a peaceful existence in our local communities when we promote and assure peace across the globe. Yet, as Western societies move toward more populist forms of government leadership, many people focus on what is happening in the US and forget to consider its impact globally. I find myself troubled by much of the current discourse and I, too, am seeking answers. So, I want to share my thinking about why we should all care about global citizen diplomacy.
Across the globe, democratic societies are seeing a shift from global cooperation toward more nationalism, yet much of our economic structure is based on global flow of goods and services. I worked for a computer manufacturer in the 1980s and we tried to prove that our products were “made in America.” Even back then, we needed to define specifically and carefully what that meant. Did we assemble foreign-made parts in the US? Did we produce more than 50 percent of the components in the US? Over the past 30 years, companies have moved toward sourcing components from the lowest cost producers across the globe, leaving most countries without the capability to produce full products.
Add outsourcing to this equation, and we see that millions of people have been lifted out of poverty because of globalization.
Now, with a range of concerns for physical and economic security, many countries are shifting from values associated with globalization toward principles of nationalism—failing, in the process, to recognize that the country in which we live relies on strong relationships with other countries. We rely on healthy relations with other countries to:
- Buy and sell our goods and services;
- buy our bonds to finance our debt;
- Trade in raw materials, such as petroleum, and manufactured products, and our mobile devices;
- protect currency stabilization to manage inflation/deflation and ensure uninterrupted currency flow;
- Collaborate to solve problems that do not respect borders.
We need to find a path forward to build on what we have created. This path goes well beyond the movement of money and materials—even making them seem relatively inconsequential—it requires diplomacy. It requires people who have worked to understand one another and the complexities of the global system to connect with the primary purpose of creating a more just and prosperous world for ALL.
When business, nonprofit, government, and academic leaders from around the world connect with their counterparts in the US through international exchange programs, the relationships they forge become a powerful tool for addressing some of our greatest global challenges. These relationships are forged person to person. They endure well beyond politics and international boundaries.
For over 50 years, Global Ties U.S. has been making these kinds of connections possible. As a nonprofit partner of the US Department of State, it sustains a network that coordinates international exchange programs and brings current and future leaders from around the world to communities throughout the United States. Global Ties provides its members—from large, national organizations to smaller, community-based ones across 45 states and 16 countries—with connections, leadership development, and professional resources, so that they are the strongest, most effective organizations they can be.
The leaders who participate in international exchanges—and the communities that host them—benefit from greater knowledge, further understanding, and deeper relationships. These shared experiences result in stronger local communities and a more peaceful, prosperous world.
Each of us, as individuals, has the opportunity to practice citizen diplomacy every day. Diplomatic acts can be as simple as a smile to a woman wearing a hijab, or a nod of acceptance to a Sikh in a turban. And, it actually extends beyond those who may appear “different.” Myriad opportunities exist to help shape US foreign relations; we need only to look around and connect.
Peace is often created because people cross borders both real and imagined, and form long-lasting relationships. The International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) is one of the US Department of State’s premier exchange programs. Participants in the International Visiting Leaders Program are nominated by Ambassadors in their countries, and are the best and brightest from across the globe. I had the great privilege of interviewing several of them, including Rebeca Gyumi, whose work helped raise the marriage age for girls in Tanzania from 14 to 18 years old. To those of us living in the US and other advanced countries whose citizen are expected to attend and complete high school, this may not seem life changing, but for Tanzanians, this decision will directly impact education, poverty, and other social challenges in their country, while indirectly impacting countries not even on the same continent.
According to Christopher Washington, PhD, Board Member of Global Ties US, “The best way to create a peaceful and prosperous world is to give hope and protect freedom. When one thinks of our most significant global issues such as social inequalities and the need for more peaceful and inclusive societies, it seems that the wellspring of quality education and citizen exchanges across the globe will extinguish the fires of human conflict and terrorism”
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About the Author
Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Metcalf & Associates, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.
Maureen has published several papers and articles and speaks regularly on innovative leadership, resilience, and organizational transformation. She is the author of the award-winning Innovative Leadership Workbook Series and the co-author of The Innovative Leadership Fieldbook, winner of an International Book Award for Best Business Reference Book. She is also a regular contributor to Forbes.com.