CITIZEN DIPLOMACY INITIATIVE

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Background

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.

Citizen Diplomacy InitiativeYet 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.

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’ knowledge, skills, caring and connections through those projects and dialogues.

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 DC-Dakar dialoguediplomacy, and reducing inequality.  Our vision is a world where capable and caring youth and families from all walks of life regularly dialogue and collaborate across borders to build peace and justice.

The Families We Are Looking For

Our Initiative currently connects families in (1) Washington D.C., USA, (2) Dakar, Senegal, and (3) Jerash, Jordan.  To be eligible for CDI, families must have:

(a) at least one parent and one child age 10-18 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

DC-Salvador dialogueLearning Life welcomes individual volunteers and organizational partners in the U.S., Senegal and Jordan, as well as other nations for future dialogues, to help with:

(1) Dialogue organizing: Help find dialogue participants — families, dialogue moderators, language interpreters, and project advisors — in your community and/or abroad, and ensure that the dialogues go smoothly.

(2) Dialogue moderating: Adopt a participating family/ies, moderate their dialogues, and assist them with the international projects they pursue together.  Moderators should ideally commit to at least one year of volunteering, and have at least a bachelor’s degree (four years of university leading to a diploma), or be enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program.  

(3) Interpreting and translation: Interpret the families’ words live during the dialogues, and/or help with CDI document translation.  Interpreters and translators should be fluent speakers and/or writers of Arabic, French, or Spanish.  

(4) Project advising: Advise families in carrying out their international projects effectively.  Advisors should be working or retired professionals with knowledge and skills in their work field, whether in media, arts, food, tourism, education, business, community organizing, or else.

To volunteer, please contact us at email@learninglife.info.  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 locations (DC, Dakar, Jerash) and planned locations (San Miguel, El Salvador, and Manila, Philippines) locations.