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Citizen Diplomacy Through Open World Exchanges

Many of the stories we share focus on activities stretching across oceans from our home base of La Crosse, Wis., but World Services of La Crosse's citizen diplomacy work is connecting communities throughout the United States, too.

Among the cities hosting Open World delegations with World Services, the exchange has contributed to significant results in sustaining decade’s long partnerships as well as cementing new relationships and serving as Open World’s resource for Congress. Several examples include:


Santa Barbara Sister Cities Board and Santa Barbara Rotary Clubs welcome the opportunity to put their global mission into action at home by hosting young NGO leaders from Ukraine through Open World.  Hampered by current politics to host visitors from its sister city, Yalta in Crimea, Santa Barbara citizen diplomat volunteers continue to welcome the next generation of Ukraine country leaders.  Open World provides an opportunity to increase local understanding about Ukraine and its efforts to grow civil society.  Santa Barbara’s strong Sister City organization and Rotary Club leaders serve as models for NGO leadership in Ukraine and peace through global friendship.


The Vladimir/Canterbury Sister City Association in Bloomington/Normal, Illinois was organized in 1986 as a tri-city partnership between Vladimir, Russia; Canterbury, England; and  Bloomington/ Normal. For the past 20 years, Vladimir/Canterbury Sister City Association has facilitated exchanges of students, athletes, educators, artists, business people, medical personnel, and government officials.  In 2016, Vladimir State University  and Illinois State University soil scientists discovered potential future exchange opportunities through the  Open World sponsored “Agriculture” exchange.   There were many fruitful discussions about best practices for organic and sustainable farming during the Open World exchange. This is an area in which the Russian delegates had much to contribute to the Illinois farms they visited based on their own agricultural experience.   There were also many interesting discussions about the benefits and perceived hazards of GMO corn in U.S. agriculture.


Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC) in Appleton, Wisconsin has become an annual destination for Open World delegations focused on entrepreneurship, small business, and technology.  The FVTC Venture Center serves as a training and resource center for entrepreneurs and small business owners in the Fox Valley.  Open World delegations have traveled to FVTC for the past 10 years to explore economic development through small business creation.  The FVTC FabLab models community support for entrepreneurs and inventors by combining access to manufacturing technology and tools to assist in product research. The rich discussions with Fox Valley small businesses have inspired the entrepreneurial spirit in Open World delegates from Russia, Serbia, and Kyrgyzstan.  The 2016 Kyrgyzstan delegates presented their business ideas at the local 1M Cups meeting.  In 2017 FVTC will host a delegation of entrepreneurs from Ukraine. 


Open World visitors enjoy the social and cultural surprises in the host city!