Learning Lab: Strengthening the International Visitor Leadership Network

As our network continues to innovate and find creative ways to engage diverse communities across the United States in global conversations, we thought there was no better place to bring these leaders for a day of training than the Kauffman Foundation, one of the leading entrepreneurial foundations in the United States. We were particularly fortunate to be joined in the morning by the new CEO of the Kauffman Foundation, Dr. DeAngela Burns-Wallace, who set the tone for the day and provided an incredibly inspirational opening keynote on the intersection of international work and the Kauffman Foundation. Dr. Burns-Wallace has close ties to the work of the Department of State, as she started her career as what is now known as a Pickering Fellow, and as a Foreign Service Officer. Her message to the network was to follow Kauffman’s lead, and to “be uncommon”, a sentiment that set the tone for the day and will serve to inspire this network for years to come. 

The day continued with heartfelt conversations around alumni engagement, local advocacy, and wrapped up with discussions about organizational strategy. Our goal was to leave participants with new ideas for implementing programs, but also with a feeling of hope and inspiration for the future of the work of vital citizen diplomacy. 


For over 80 years, non-profits across the United States have hosted delegations on the International Visitor Leadership Program.  

The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) is the U.S. Department of State’s premier professional exchange program. Through short-term visits to the United States, current and emerging foreign leaders in a variety of fields experience this country firsthand and cultivate lasting relationships with their American counterparts. Professional meetings reflect the participants’ professional interests and support the foreign policy goals of the United States. More than 200,000 International Visitors have engaged with Americans through the IVLP, including more than 500 current or former Chiefs of State or Heads of Government. 

The Global Ties U.S. network exists as a public-private partnership, with programmers across the nation at over 90 independent nonprofits, including Global Ties KC, tasked with designing programs for these groups. Twenty years ago, this network was often referred to as “one of the largest volunteer networks in the country”. While it is a wonderful sentiment, it is an inaccurate statement. In reality, this network of organizations is run by professional staff, who are dedicating their life and careers to serve as citizen diplomats. These organizations, in turn, do rely on thousands of volunteers across the country to open their homes, hearts, and places of work, to welcome international visitors into their communities to engage in two-way exchange and honest, organic conversations. 


To read about the Heartland Welcome Dinner, click here

To read about the Diplomacy Begins Here Summit, click here