WESTERN HEMISPHERE ALUMNI JOIN FORCES TO TACKLE REGIONAL ISSUES
By Johanna Villalobos and Sophia Stergiou
Johanna Villalobos serves as a Public Diplomacy Officer in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, and Sophia Stergiou serves as the Western Hemisphere Regional Alumni Coordinator in the Office of Alumni Affairs in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Last week, we had the privilege of engaging with 39 leaders, thinkers, and doers from almost every country in the Western Hemisphere in the first regional International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) Advisory Council Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The concept for this conference was a winning project of the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF) worldwide competition. The alumni conference supported our strategic efforts to develop partnerships between the countries of the Americas and ensure that not just government officials, but civil society and everyday citizens, participate in the economic and social opportunities in the hemisphere.
Alumni of U.S. government exchange programs such as the IVLP play a crucial role in developing these partnerships by serving as a bridge of understanding between the United States and those in their networks of influence and communities of interest. At the same time, these alumni are able to connect in a thoughtful and substantive way with each other and with us in the United States about how our nations’ partnerships should move forward.
In the last four days of the conference, the group of leaders exchanged experiences, analyzed key challenges affecting the region, and recommended paths and solutions to major regional issues. They plan to move forward with analysis and research that they will present to decision/policy makers, issue stakeholders, and the general public. The discussions, presentations, and future collaborations of these exchange alumni plan to focus on the themes of democracy and governance, economic opportunity and prosperity, education and empowerment, and environmental issues. Alumni contributions to this process of communication will guide our partnerships from the abstract to the concrete, and will keep our focus on assistance and cooperation that change people(tm)s lives for the better.
One of the most important outcomes of the conference was the creation of a regional advisory council named the IVLP Alumni Network of the Americas (IANA) and the launching of a digital platform to sustain communication and collaboration. IANA will work together to analyze common concerns and generate solutions, while bringing together other IVLP alumni and alumni association representatives, creating synergies with regional associations and local partners, and enlarging the think tank to include other U.S. government program alumni for the benefit of the region and the world.
This is the beginning of an exciting time for our partnership with program alumni and the region, and we are glad to have had the opportunity to be here in Buenos Aires with the group for its inception. We look forward to witnessing the important products and solutions that can contribute to our shared leadership of the hemisphere.