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36

DECEMBER 2015

|

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

Looking to

the Future

Jennifer Clinton (left) is president of Global Ties

U.S., an implementing partner of the Depart-

ment of State’s International Visitor Leadership

Program.

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

F

or the past 75 years the International Visi- tor Leadership Program has been the flags

hip

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 recently

by 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

FOCUS

THE INTERNATIONAL VISITOR LEADERSHIP PROGRAM