The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) is one of many public diplomacy programs funded by the U.S. Department of State.  This particular initiative is a professional exchange directed towards current and emerging international leaders to enrich their knowledge of American history, culture and society.  To provide some background on the program’s implementation, in 1940, Nelson Rockefeller was designated Coordinator of Commercial and Cultural Affairs and invited 130 Latin American Journalists to the the United States.  This exchanged continued through several administrations and was eventually realized as the IVLP.  There are several aspects of this public diplomacy program that I admire.

For one, the IVLP has dedicated itself to the cultural exchange of foreign leaders into the American way of life.  Visitors have the opportunity travel to different cities, experience the the classroom setting and converse with their counterpart leaders.  They are also able to share their own cultural experiences and perspectives with us.  The website provides plenty of anecdotal evidence that the program expands the horizon of both the visitor and the host.  This is important, because as a communicative concept, culture can either represent a barrier or a pathway to a fruitful relationship.  Public diplomacy is meant to arm the positive aspects of any country’s public image and the IVLP represents just that.   It breaks down the cultural barriers between the host and visitor and provides an avenue to a mutual learning experience.  Ashraf Gamal of Egypt had this to say:

“I came to the conclusion that I come from a different culture from yours, but through food and culinary arts we can cooperate and understand each other.  I have a dream to fight hunger and poverty…..And we can work together to protect the planet and feed future generations.” – See more at: http://eca.state.gov/ivlp/story/food-diplomacy-brings-egyptian-culinary-professional-table-taste-america#sthash.6VIidUGZ.dpuf


3 thoughts on “IVLP

  1. This is a really interesting concept. And from the article, I think that it truly does make a difference in ways that using digital channels alone cannot. Connecting leaders with different cultural aspects of nation without a political leaning (I mean, there is definitely a political agenda…but the idea is that the experiences themselves are not political) can give them a fuller concept of the multidimensional culture and divert them from following the popular stereotypes.
    The US is making strides through digital diplomacy websites and programs, but I don’t think virtual experiences can ever replace the real thing. I’ve worked with a company that used Union Kitchen (mentioned in the article), and I think it’s great that it’s having a positive impact on the perception of the US, especially when it comes to small businesses (so much so that the Egyptian leader wants to create something similar in his homeland).


  2. IVLP sounds like an interesting program to study! As Megan mentioned, there is something about face to face, or person to person contact that can’t be replicated digitally, no matter how hard we try.

    The question I have for IVLP and many of the other cultural exchange programs that were described in various blog posts this week is around the end goal of the program. Yes, it’s great for leaders to come and experience the “American way” of doing things. Is the program hoping to influence these leaders to be more “American” in their way of doing when they return home? Is the goal simply to provide a more positive perception of the US? If so, it seems that there should be more long-term initiatives involved. Perhaps include some sort of networking group for IVLP alumni to promote long-term collaboration?


  3. I appreciate your comment on this diplomatic program and the notion that communication can either be a “barrier or a pathway to a fruitful relationship.” As we know from our intercultural studies, one of the best ways to learn and understand a culture is to go there, interact with the people, and experience their reality for yourself. This enables us to practice realistic cultural empathy- the ability to put yourself in another person’s psychological shoes and be more capable of describing behavior objectively. This concept is especially important for cultural leaders, and as you note, which to me highlights why the International Visitor Leadership Program is valuable. And as you note, many have expressed coming away from the experience with notions of realistic cultural empathy through anecdotal evidence on the website. However, I doubt they would post any negative feedback as I’m sure not all come to our country and leave with only increased positive feelings.


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