On November 4 at the Warsaw-based Polish-American Freedom Foundation, Cultural Affairs and Deputy Cultural Affairs Officers Dan Hastings and Elizabeth Blumenthal met with eight local leaders from throughout Poland to learn about their recent professional exchange in the United States. The local leaders were part of a ten-person delegation that the U.S. Embassy sent on an on-demand International Leadership Visitor Program (IVLP) – the 13th such delegation of leaders sent on this program to date. This year’s cohort – competitively selected by the Embassy’s wonderful partners, the Polish-American Freedom Foundation and the School of Leaders Foundation – visited Washington, DC and the state of Minnesota on a ten day-long professional exchange that focused on “Managing Global Trends in Local Communities.” The Polish leaders met and discussed with their American counterparts on how they are harnessing local and grassroots initiatives to address new global challenges and trends. They explored such topics as responding to the aging of western societies, using new technologies to support local development and provide services to vulnerable citizens, responding to environmental challenges, and promoting inclusion.
Since its inception in 2007, the Polish-American Freedom Foundation on-demand IVLP program has sent 130 leaders from all over Poland to the United States and has created a network of leaders actively engaged in their local communities. It is made possible by successful cooperation between the U.S. Embassy, the Polish American Freedom Foundation, and the School of Leaders Foundation. The exchange program is part of the Department of State’s International Leadership Visitor Program and aims to strengthen local leaders and support local initiatives in the fields of civic society, culture and the environment, among others. Participants come from local government, NGOs, and educational backgrounds, and the program has greatly contributed to the development of Polish civil society as well as increased American-Polish understanding. This newest cohort of Polish leaders joins the ever-expanding pool of over 6,000 Polish alumni of U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs. This includes, among others, Fulbright alumni and the youngest alumni from our Future Leaders Exchange program – FLEX. Exchanges form an integral part of U.S.-Polish people-to-people relations and represent a strategic priority for the U.S. government worldwide.