How does professional exchange programs advance civil society development around the world?
If we understand Human Rights matters and Human Rights violations as a concern for all of us as global citizens, then we will understand that we need to coordinate work and efforts and form alliances to create positive impact. Because of the great importance of these issues the work of nonprofit organizations which work on them on specific fields tend to cross borders, intercultural teams are form and sometimes struggle finding a way to work together, that is not the perfect scenario.
I think the ability to understand each other is a key aspect on the globalized community that we live nowadays, this goes beyond the language barrier and is particularly important if we are talking about the nonprofit sector.
Our understanding on topics such as development, human development, international development, poverty, human rights and sustainability, are different, even our definition of happiness is diverse; it’s different throughout cultures, throughout nations.
Professional exchange programs allow us as activist, NGO leaders, and members of civil society organizations to better understand each other as a first step so we can act and work together to solve the world greatest problems later.
Without real engagement we may have the greatest interpreters in the world even speak the same language and we will not understand each other, this will be the case if we don’t make the effort to comprehend the context, the history, the culture, the values of our fellow associates/partners around the world who are working on the same issues that we are.
Margaret C. Ayers, President of the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation when writing about exchange programs once said that sustained relationships are possible only when there is dialogue and mutual respect so to work together in these global issues. First, we need to see from where we stand. Then, we need to open spaces of dialogues about the issues that divide us, about our differences, fears, about power relationships between nations, between people and other matters that are not easy to talk about.
I see our mission as Fellows to be global leaders who push forward innovative initiatives but also as people who serve as bridges that facilitates this kind of dialogue creating a new form of interaction between the North and the South.