THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
Jennifer Clinton (left) is president of Global Ties
U.S., an implementing partner of the Depart-
ment of State’s International Visitor Leadership
Jelena Putre is senior program manager for Global Ties U.S. and a
former public affairs specialist for U.S. Embassy Belgrade.
IVLP’s partners and stakeholders are examining the challenges ahead
and exploring ways to renew the program to ensure continuing success.
BY J ENN I F ER CL I NTON AND J E L ENA PUTRE
For the past 75 years the International Visi- tor Leadership Program has been the flags
exchange program of the U.S. government, helping
increase international understanding of American
decision-making and foreign policy goals. The
program has fostered positive perceptions of the
U.S. government and the American people.
IVLP embodies a “whole of society” approach. It “takes a vil-
lage,” indeed, to run this program that brings 5,000 participants
to the United States each year—including U.S. embassy person-
nel around the world who identify up-and-coming leaders for
the program, 90 State Department employees of the Bureau of
Educational and Cultural Affairs’ Office of International Visi-
tors who manage the program, seven Washington, D.C.-based
implementing partner organizations and some 94 entities based
in 44 states, known as community-based members. These local
groups deploy about 40,000 individuals, mostly volunteers, to
ensure the program’s success.
Whether they are career diplomats or political appointees,
U.S. ambassadors often describe IVLP as one of their most effec-
tive high-level relationship-building tools. The cadre of alumni
speaks for itself. The initiative is responsible for a global network
of leaders and professionals who have shared their American
experience with their colleagues, families and friends at home.
An untold number of partnerships have been created, thanks to
the contacts which began as encounters between IVLP partici-
pants and their American counterparts.
When we look at the International Visitor Leadership Pro-
gram in the rear-view mirror, we see a strong and respected
pillar of public diplomacy. Things seem a bit less clear on the
road ahead. The roller coaster effect that implementing partners
in Washington and across the country have been experiencing
year in and year out in a very uncertain budget climate has made
administering IVLP a greater challenge than it should be.
How does a tried and tested program like the IVLP evolve and
meet the ever-increasing demands of the U.S. government in a
world where “better, faster, cheaper” is the new norm? This high-
touch, relatively high-cost and labor-intensive initiative must be
able to combat a rising American sentiment described recentlyby Donna Oglesby in The Foreign Service Journal (“Diplomacy Education Unzipped,” January-February 2015): “Americans are
far less interested in managing international relations through
perpetual systemic engagement. They want to either avoid or fix
THE INTERNATIONAL VISITOR LEADERSHIP PROGRAM