For the first time ever, beginning in October 2014, the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) administered a three-month-long virtual exchange for ten leading environmental NGO professionals from Iceland.
The project promoted sustainable environmental practices and conservation in the Arctic by encouraging the use of scientific information and strategic messaging to inform and mobilize the public; while also investing in innovative strategies for partnership building, grassroots organizing, and social media engagement in the NGO sector.
As the first IVLP exchange of its kind, conducted primarily through video and web-based conferences, this was a milestone for the oldest State Department-sponsored exchange program - IVLP dates back to 1940.
This innovative project represents an important piece of a larger State Department commitment to supplement traditional public diplomacy using cutting-edge, connective technologies. Virtual tools offer a breadth of opportunities to expand exchange programs in creative new ways.
The U.S. State Department partnered with Cultural Vistas to design the project itinerary, which included a series of facilitated online discussions with the participants’ American counterparts including bi-monthly virtual town hall meetings. The group was also able to participate in various cultural activities, a hallmark of traditional exchange programs, such as an authentic American-style barbeque at the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik and an "IVLP Virtual Explorer" series wherein participants viewed informative and personalized video footage of the Lincoln Memorial, Hawaii, and other cultural landmarks across the United States. To deepen their understanding about life in the United States and its unique demographic composition, the participants also received culture boxes representative of U.S. cities and states from various community-based members associated with the Global Ties U.S. network.