Seeking Experts & Families for Live International Family Dialogues Starting June 27!

Learning Life, a nonprofit education and citizen engagement lab based in Washington DC, USA, leads a Family Diplomacy Initiative (FDI) that connects families across the world free to share and learn together via a Facebook group and live online dialogues.  In the long-term, FDI aims to spread family diplomacy, and engage families in governance to nurture a more caring, connected world.  

In 2021, families have the opportunity to participate in a series of six live international family dialogues via Zoom at 12:00-1:30pm EST (NYC/DC time) on Sundays, June 27, July 25, August 15, September 12, October 10 and November 14 focused on the question “what do families worldwide need to be safe and healthy?”  The six dialogues will each focus on different forces influencing family safety and health as follows: 

June 27: Global Trends in Family Life: How are families changing worldwide, and how does this impact family health and security?  Topics might include global patterns and trends in family demographics, parenting, childhood, family life, aspirations and viewpoints, etc.

July 25: Health Care Systems: How do health care systems shape family health and security?  What exists and what’s lacking in local-to-global health care institutions? What are some of the major global health trends, threats, and some of the most promising large-scale solutions? 

August 15: Work & Economics: How do economic forces affect family health and security?  Topics might include work and unemployment, workplace safety, automation, income and wealth inequality, economic migration and remittances, work-life balance, etc.   

September 12: Politics: How do local to global politics influence family health and security?  Topics might include government service provision, leadership, civil society, governmental power inequalities between and within nations, immigration and refugee policy, war, human rights, rule of law, corruption, legal discrimination, etc.

October 10: The Environment: How do natural and man-made environmental conditions, local to global, impact family health and security?  Topics might include home and neighborhood crime and safety, community life, green space, housing and segregation, transportation, pollution, climate change, etc.  

November 14: Education & Leisure: How do education and leisure time activities influence family health and security? Topics might include formal and informal education, leisure patterns and trends, literacy, early childhood education, gender and class inequalities, etc.   

For each of the six dialogues, we are aiming to have (A) 1-2 experts who can speak briefly (10 minutes each) and informatively to the topic, and (B) 2-3 families that briefly (5 minutes each) offer their experience on one or more issues.  The goal here is not to cover everything in depth, but rather to provide a selection of facts, issues and perspectives to help enrich and guide the families’ conversation.  

Those experts and families (two or more members of one family living together) qualified and kindly willing to volunteer to speak on one or more of the above topics can email Learning Life at email@learninglife.info with their resume/CV (in the case of experts), topics they can speak on, and city and country of residence, plus 4-5 times in the coming 1-2 weeks that they are available to meet to learn more.  

What Is Family Diplomacy?

 Family Diplomacy InitiativeOur world is becoming more complex and interdependent as more people, goods, services and interactions flow across national borders.  This changing global reality has triggered xenophobic, sometimes violent reactions that have been validated and amplified by political activists and opportunistic leaders.  Diplomacy is rightly upheld as an important response to the mounting tensions within and between some countries, but diplomacy should not be left strictly to professionals.  The internet and smart phones open exciting possibilities for citizens to be involved in diplomacy to help promote peace, prosperity and justice, but success and our global future depend in part on fresh approaches.   This is the fourth in a series of posts intended to develop family diplomacy as a new form of citizen diplomacy for a more caring world.  Read the first post here.  

This post, in the form of a Q&A, succinctly answers some basic questions about family diplomacy, and how to become a Family Diplomat, or a Family Diplomacy Ambassador in 2021.

Why family diplomacy?

Families are widely valued across the world, and deeply impacted by international affairs, from global trade, to immigration, to climate change.  Yet the voices of families are hardly heard in intergovernmental bodies like the United Nations, even as the voices of youth and women are rightly being amplified.  Allowing families to connect, share, learn, and speak publicly to their needs, concerns and aspirations in and to governments across the world is vital to nurturing a more caring world.  Learn more about why families should be involved in diplomacy here.

What is family diplomacy?

Family diplomacy means three things:

  1. Families talking and learning together across lines of country, class, race and religion.
  2. Families publicly voicing their own and other families’ needs, concerns and aspirations.
  3. Families participating in government policy-making at local to global levels.

Currently, via our Family Diplomacy Initiative (FDI), Learning Life is actively pursuing 1 and 2 above, and planning for 3.

To learn more about the idea of and reasons for family diplomacy, click here.

We Are Family Diplomats Poster
What is the Family Diplomacy Initiative?

Launched in 2016, the Family Diplomacy Initiative or FDI is the program through which Learning Life advances family diplomacy worldwide.  In 2017-2019, Learning Life completed two pilot projects — a community photo project and a food culture project — that engaged a small number of lower-income families in the USA, El Salvador, Senegal and Jordan.  Since summer 2019, we have been scaling up FDI to encourage thousands of people worldwide to share and learn about family life via our FDI Facebook Group.  In 2020, we completed a larger food culture project, and in June to November 2021, we are holding a series of six live international family dialogues focused on the question: “what do families worldwide need to be safe and healthy?”  We are now recruiting Family Diplomats to participate in these dialogues.

How can I become a Family Diplomat (FD)?

Family diplomacy will evolve as Learning Life develops FDI, but in 2021, here are the activities/tasks entailed in being a FD:

  1. Join our Family Diplomacy Initiative (FDI) on Facebook to connect, share and learn with a growing number of families across the globe.
  2. Participate with at least one other member of your family, and preferably more than one, in at least four of six live online international dialogues, from start to finish, focused on the question “what do families worldwide need to be safe and healthy?”  The dialogues will each be 1.5 hours long, and will take place on June 27, July 25, August 15, September 12, October 10, and November 14, 2021, all at 12:00-1:30pm ET (DC/NYC/USA East Coast time).
  3. Participate thoughtfully in conversations and answer questions Learning Life may pose related to the six dialogues via our FDI Facebook Group.
  4. Complete a Learning Life FD screening survey, plus a survey before and after the six live dialogues to help us assess the impact of the dialogues (three surveys in total).
  5. Optional: Fill out your own “We Are Family Diplomats” Poster with a photo of your family plus your family’s completion of the sentence: “We are family diplomats because…”  See the above poster for an example from the Gowtham Family in India.  You can email us with your family photo, sentence completion, family name, city and country at email@learninglife.info.

Anyone in the world can become a FD free of charge.  However, FDs should:

  1. Be on Facebook, and willing to join our FDI Facebook Group.
  2. Be willing and motivated to complete FD Activities 1-4, or 1-5 above.
  3. Have at least one family member — and much preferably more than one — who are committed to participating in the live dialogues with you.
  4. Have a strong enough internet connection to participate in Zoom audio or video calls.
  5. Speak English at at least an intermediate level.
  6. Be at least 14 years old, and mature enough to participate meaningfully in FD Activities 1-4 or 1-5 above.

We estimate that serving as one of Learning Life’s Family Diplomats will take about 10-12 hours total from June to November 2021.  The benefits include:

  1. Make new friends across the world.
  2. Develop a deeper understanding of the forces impacting families worldwide, and how families can be safer and healthier.
  3. Gain a resume-building experience (for those who want it).
  4. Earn a 2021 Family Diplomat Certificate of Completion for those who want it, and satisfactorily complete Tasks 1-4 above.
  5. Get the chance to win recognition as one of Learning Life’s 2021 Top Family Diplomats for those who participate in all six live dialogues in their entirety, engage thoughtfully in all Facebook discussions and questions before, between and/or after the dialogues, and complete the FD screening survey, pre-survey, and post-survey.

To apply to become a Family Diplomat in 2021, please (a) join the Family Diplomacy Initiative on Facebook, and (b) fill out this FD screening survey.

International FDA team weekly meeting via Zoom

How can I become a Family Diplomacy Ambassador (FDA)?

Family Diplomacy Ambassadors (FDAs) in 2021 are volunteers anywhere in the world who want to help connect families across borders, and help grow Learning Life’s Family Diplomacy Initiative (FDI).  Every week, FDAs (1) attend an international FDA Team meeting via Zoom on Sunday at 8am or 1pm ET (NYC/DC time) to go over progress in growing FDI, and to learn from each other, and (2) spend 1-2 hours inviting people on Facebook to join FDI, and to become FDs and FDAs.  FDAs are also expected to join FDI on Facebook, and encouraged to take part in this year’s six live international family dialogues described above.

FDAs can live anywhere in the world, but must be/have:

  1. At least 14 years old
  2. A strong enough internet connection to allow for at least audio if not video participation in the weekly international FDA Team meetings.
  3. Active on Facebook, or willing to set up and use a Facebook account.
  4. Motivated to help grow our Family Diplomacy Initiative, and make the six 2021 live, international  family dialogues in June-November a success.
  5. Able and willing to volunteer 3-4 hours/week.
  6. Speak English at a strong intermediate to fluent level.

The benefits of becoming an FDA are:

  1. Be part of an international team sharing, learning and working together to help make the world more connected and caring.
  2. Get resume-building experience as an international citizen diplomat working on an innovative peace-building initiative.
  3. Receive an official Learning Life FDA certificate if you complete service as an FDA through November 2021.
  4. The best performing FDAs are eligible for an FDA certificate of completion with honors distinction.

To apply to become an FDA, please (a) join the Family Diplomacy Initiative on Facebook, and (b) fill out this FDA screening survey. 

How does Learning Life define family?

Families come in all shapes and sizes, so we define families broadly as two or more people who love each other, or one or more people and one or more pets who love each other non-sexually (and preferably live with each other).   This includes same-sex and opposite-sex couples, unmarried couples, couples with or without children, single parents with one or more kids, single persons with one or more pets, siblings or cousins living together, grandparents living with grandchildren, and others.  The importance of family is love, not who loves.

Photo below: Family representatives from Venezuela and the USA share their answers in the FDI Facebook Group in answer to the question “what does breakfast look like in your family?” as part of Learning Life’s 2020 food culture project.  

FDI world food culture project

Meet Our Family Diplomacy Ambassadors

Starting in January this year, Learning Life began weekly meetings of a new and important kind of volunteer: Family Diplomacy Ambassadors, otherwise known as “FDAs.” FDAs are young people in their teens to 30s who volunteer about four hours weekly to help grow Learning Life’s Family Diplomacy Initiative (FDI).

As Learning Life’s flagship program, FDI is connecting families worldwide on Facebook to share and learn together, with an eye to nurturing a more caring, connected world by elevating the voices of families in the long-term. This year, via FDI, Learning Life is organizing a series of six live, international, family dialogues via Zoom focused on the question “what do families worldwide need to be safe and healthy?”

To engage an increasing number of people in FDI, and ensure strong, wide participation in this year’s six planned live dialogues, FDAs are busy collectively inviting 1,000+ people per week, individually, mostly via Facebook, but also Linkedin, to join FDI on Facebook, and for those interested, to volunteer as FDAs or Family Diplomats (FDs). FDs are two or more members of any family worldwide willing to take part in 4-6 of the six planned live dialogues this year.

“FDAs are vital to the growth of Learning Life’s Family Diplomacy Initiative, so we are excited to see that the number of volunteer FDAs worldwide has grown significantly since we launched FDAs in January.” Since the first FDA meeting on January 3, which began with three FDA candidates in Nigeria, the team has grown as of May 2 to eighteen FDAs based in the USA, Mexico, Cameroon, Nigeria, Tunisia, Germany, the Netherlands, Turkey, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. FDAs meet every Sunday at 8am or 1pm EST (NYC/DC time), depending on their time zone and preference, to report on progress toward FDI growth goals, receive updates, and to discuss any organizational questions or issues. In the latter half of the meeting, FDAs get to learn more about each other and the world through discussions on a variety of questions of shared interest, from “What is the most beautiful place you have seen on Earth?” to “What do you think is the most serious issue facing your country?”

The photos in this post feature the FDA Western Team (the larger group above, in mostly western time zones, launched in January) that meets Sundays at 1pm EST, and the FDA Eastern Team (smaller group below, in Eastern time zones formed in March) that meets Sundays at 8am EST.

As one FDA Western Team member based in Turkey put it, “I always like to meet people from different cultures with different values. As a Family Diplomacy Ambassador, I get the opportunity to connect with other people across the world who share my passion to learn about cultures. Learning Life is like a second family once you get involved in it.”

For more about FDI, and the new FDA and FD roles, including how to get involved, click here.

Learning Life Marks 20th Democracy Dinner

Learning Life is pleased to announce the successful occurrence of our 20th, and 21st, Democracy Dinners on March 24 and 29. Launched in June 2019, the Dinners bring together metro Washington DC democracy sector activists, academics, professionals and elected officials to engage in deeper conversations about the challenges and possibilities for democracy at local to global levels in light of authoritarian resurgence in the USA and abroad.

Since June 2019, we have held two Democracy Dinners every two months at 6 to 8pm EST, with the exception of a break in March 2021 due to the Covid Pandemic. While the Dinners were held in person in January 2021 and prior, we resumed them in May 2021 online via Zoom, and will continue holding the Dinners online post-Covid as this allows more people to participate from the convenience of their home or office. The Dinners will remain small group affairs, with about 8-12 participants per Dinner, to help maximize each person’s participation and foster a more intimate conversation.

The Democracy Dinners are a first step in the planned development of a regional democracy learning community in metro Washington DC to nurture democracy-strengthening networking and collaboration across specialty silos and lines of difference. “If we can develop a successful regional democracy learning community first in metro Washington DC, our hope is to adapt that model to develop in other cities worldwide to help empower citizens, and foster governments more accountable to their people,” said Learning Life’s founder and director, Paul Lachelier.

Beyond the online Dinners every two months, Learning Life plans to hold in-person events periodically to encourage networking and collaboration in the democracy sector, starting with a reception planned for October or early November 2021 in Washington, DC.

Below are photos from some of the Democracy Dinners, in chronological order, from the first to the latest Dinner.

For more about Learning Life’s Democracy Dinners click here. Want to get email invitations to the Dinners? If you live in metro Washington DC, and are engaged in democracy work at local to global levels as a volunteer or paid professional, please contact us at email@learninglife.info with your name, email address, and resume indicating your democracy work. You can also join our Democracy Dinners Linkedin Group here to connect with other democracy sector folks, and to share your democracy-related questions, events, publications, projects and calls to action.

Democracy Dinner #1
Democracy Dinner #2
Democracy Dinner #10
Democracy Dinner #13
Democracy Dinner #20
Democracy Dinner #21