Citizen Exchanges Make a Difference for a Local Non-Profit Leader

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The Cleveland Council on World Affairs nominated Danielle Drake for a U.S. Department of State-sponsored outbound exchange to India for three weeks in 2018. The Professional Fellows Program for Governance and Society welcomes emerging leaders from India, Pakistan, and Nepal to the U.S. for four-week fellowship programs, and selects a cohort of emerging U.S. nonprofit and government leaders to travel abroad. Danielle is currently conducting a graduate internship in Nepal with The Accountability Lab, a civic organization she became familiar with through the Professional Fellows Program. We spoke to Danielle about the impact of her exchange experience.

How did you get involved in international exchanges such as the Professional Fellows Program?

I first became involved in exchanges in 2013 when US Together, Inc., a local refugee resettlement organization I worked for at the time, hosted an exchange Fellow from Kenya. It was a wonderful experience, and I wanted to continue hosting Fellows. I truly believe experiences in people-to-people diplomacy can have a huge impact. It was valuable to my organization to hear what NGOs on the other side of the world do to address challenges that we in Ohio also grapple with.

Why did you think it was important to participate in an outbound exchange?

I wanted the opportunity to work with the Fellows who had previously come to Cleveland. I also wanted the chance to share some of the incredible work being done by NGOs in Cleveland with my counterparts on the other side of the world.

What was the most interesting or impactful part of your trip?

Meeting people is always the best part of any trip for me. Seeing how different NGOs go about their work is so interesting and eye-opening. We made deep connections: some of the people I met through this program have become great friends of mine. In fact, one of my friends was the initial contact I made at The Accountability Lab, the organization I am currently interning with here in Nepal; it works on critical governance challenges.

Why, in your view, are citizen exchanges important?

I think citizen exchanges are as important as meetings between country leaders and high-ranking government officials. These exchanges offer ways for people, including civil servants and NGO staff, “boots-on-the-ground” people, to meet and discuss important topics with people in their fields. Through these exchanges, we can bring bright minds to the same table and address issues such as poverty, food insecurity, and civic engagement. I know personally that my work was enriched through my experience in India.

I really do think more government and nonprofit offices should host international Fellows. It is truly eye-opening for the staff they work with and it builds great connections. And, of course, you have the chance to potentially take part in an outbound exchange – a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a different part of the world!

The Cleveland Council on World Affairs is proud to have facilitated the selection of nearly twenty Clevelanders for U.S. Department of State-sponsored outbound exchanges to countries throughout Asia and the Western Hemisphere since 2016. This particular program, the Professional Fellows Program for Governance and Society, is administered by CCWA in partnership with World Learning in Washington, D.C.

Have an impact story from hosting an international visitor in your office or home? We want to hear it! Tweet @CleWorldAffairs.

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