CITIZEN DIPLOMACY INITIATIVE
In our increasingly interconnected world, it is often said that international engagement is no longer a luxury, that the future belongs to those who can act locally to globally.
Yet international travel is an expense few can afford. For this reason, there is growing interest in international “virtual exchange” or connection via the internet, which is often low-cost or free. However, much of the educational virtual exchange that exists is class-to-class, or student-to-student, and it tends to occur between relatively privileged students, reinforcing the already pronounced social class bias of international affairs.
Since August 2016, Learning Life has been developing a new model for international exchange — free, community-based, and sustained virtual dialogues and project collaborations between lower-income families in different nations (see below for a map of current and planned dialogue locations worldwide). It’s called the Citizen Diplomacy Initiative, or CDI.
1) develops long-term relationships with particular families in particular communities.
2) carries out the live, international, family-to-family dialogues in participating families’ homes or in public places like libraries or offices.
3) gets families engaged in projects that are at once local and international.
4) nurtures families’ world knowledge, skills, caring and connections.
5) supports the families with volunteer mentors, project advisors, language interpreters and a research-based curriculum.
Virtual exchange presents a promising yet still underdeveloped means for bridging divides, democratizing diplomacy, and reducing inequality. We envision an increasingly interconnected, equitable and collaborative future where people act foremost as caring, capable global citizens rather than partisans of nations or tribes.
The Families We Are Looking For
Our Initiative currently connects families in (1) Washington D.C., USA, (2) San Salvador, El Salvador, (3) Dakar, Senegal, and (4) Jerash, Jordan. To be eligible for CDI, families must have:
(a) at least one parent and one child age 8-18 willing to participate.
(b) parents with less than a bachelor’s degree (4 years of university leading to a diploma).
(c) household combined income of less than their country’s median (middle) household income.
(d) not taken more than two flights for vacation as a family outside their country of residence.
(e) have few or no contacts (family or friends) abroad with whom the family communicates.
Grandparents or legal guardians and their children, or mentors and their mentees are also welcome to participate.
How You Can Help
(1) Project co-leaders work in pairs to carry at least two families — one in Washington DC, one abroad — through the five or more steps of a CDI project over 3-5 months, meeting face-to-face and/or via the internet. Project co-leaders should ideally have at least a bachelor’s degree (four years of university leading to a diploma), or be enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program. Fluency in Spanish, French or Arabic is a plus, but not required. Time commitment: about 2-3 hours per meeting.
(2) Activity leaders organize and lead enriching international activities with our American youth or families in metro Washington DC. These local activities include project outings, museum tours, embassy and nonprofit organization visits, video documentary viewings, participation in cultural events, etc. Time commitment: about 3-4 hours per activity.
(3) Dialogue interpreters translate the families’ words during the live dialogues. Interpreters should be fluent speakers of Spanish, Arabic, or French. Qualified interpreters can also help with CDI document translation. Time commitment: about 2-3 hours per dialogue.
(4) Project advisors teach our families in DC and/or abroad about their skill or area of expertise. Advisors should be working or retired professionals with knowledge and skills relevant to the particular project (e.g., country knowledge, photography, nutrition, food culture, geography). Time commitment: about 3 hours per meeting.
(5) Interns are typically undergraduate or graduate students who help with a variety of tasks, including research, writing, dialogue organizing, language interpreting, family activities, etc. Time commitment: 8-10 hours per week during a semester or summer.
(6) Planning and fundraising consultants assist with organizational research, planning and fundraising in this early phase of our Initiative’s development to chart a sustainable long-term path. Time commitment: about 3-4 hours per planning meeting, plus any requested preparation for the meeting.
To volunteer, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more, please visit our FAQ page. Check out our News & Blog page for the latest Initiative happenings. Below is a map of our current and planned locations.