HIGGS experience from the International Visitor Leadership Program 2019

The International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) is an exclusive exchange programme by the Department of State, USA. It boasts worldwide recognition, as professionals from all around the globe become a part of it. Participants are nominated and selected annually by US Embassies in countries around the world.

During 2019, I was fortunate enough to be nominated under the category of “NGO Management”, IVLP 2019. It was a landmark in my life, as it provided me with knowledge, exposed me to different views and ideas, as well as new friends from all over the world.

Interesting figures for US Civil Society

Civil society in the United States has a strong presence, variety, and is growing more and more. The main thematic activities of civil society organizations are: provision of social services, local development, culture, research, dissemination of information, citizens’ awareness and advocacy. According to the Center for Nonprofit and Philanthropy (The Urban Institute), Non-Profit Organizations operating in the US amount to 2.2 million of which 1.6 million are registered in the Internal Revenue Service, the national agency that regulates and supervises the NGO sector. It is estimated that about one registered NGO corresponds to 200 American citizens, which also proves the dynamics of the sector. The third sector in the US accounted for 5.6% of the country’s GDP (2016) and employed 14.4 million people (2013). It is also estimated that 77.4 million people volunteered in 2017 (30.3% of the total population).

Schedule and visits

The duration of the program was twenty days. The program commenced in Washington DC on May 4, 2019, where all 25 participants from different countries united to explore the roles of the federal government and international bodies related to the Civil Society. A number of different meetings with government agencies, private and non-profit organizations were held to showcase the bases of NGO management.

On May 9th we were split into four different groups and the group I participated in traveled to the state of New Mexico, namely in the cities of Albuquerque and Santa Fe. New Mexico is a state that faces many challenges, from low health indicators, low numbers of students graduating from school to significant contamination of natural resources. The NGOs that are active are trying to fill with their work many of the gaps above. We have been visiting many local organizations and foundations working to solve many of the local problems.

On May 15th, we traveled to New Orleans in the state of Louisiana, where we all reunited. In New Orleans we visited and exchanged ideas and views with many stakeholders about their different approaches to organizational management, volunteer management, and communication issues. We have come to know a lot of examples of good practices that manage to have a significant social imprint in their societies.

On May 21st, we traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio, where we visited and met local civil society organizations and discussed issues of communication, fundraising, training and consulting, as well as how the civil society organizations promote the involvement of local society and social change. The interaction with both the representatives we met and the other participants was incredible and I was so lucky to be part of this experience.

The program formally ended with a very interesting workshop where all participants gathered to reflect upon experiences during the program, identified trends and best practices in the field and considered new contacts or approaches that might benefit our work. The core benefits of the program were that we could consolidate all the learning s that we had during the 20 days.

The ability to share so much time with people from other countries has made me widen my own world, see possibilities and opportunities that I did not know they existed. Although we were 25 representatives of different origins, colors and experiences, we were still 25 people trying to create a positive social impact and to make the world a better place to live in.

Alexandra Emirza
Deputy Director, HIGGS

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