Funded by Congress and administered by the Open World Leadership Center (the Center), the Open World Program brings emerging leaders from Russia, Ukraine, and other Eurasian countries to the United States for 10 days of intensive exchange with their professional counterparts. Since its launch, over 18,725 individuals from a wide variety of professional fields have traveled to over 2,000 communities in all 50 states to meet and share knowledge with their professional colleagues, and to learn about life in America. Open World themes have included accountable governance, Women as Leaders, NGO development and management, public health, economic development, environment, and accountable governance. In addition, Open World has sponsored visits by members of several parliaments and has an ongoing Rule of Law component which brings Eurasian judges to the U.S. to learn about the American judicial system. The Open World Russian Cultural Leaders Program brings musicians, writers, and arts managers to the U.S. to collaborate with their artistic counterparts.
Unlike many exchange programs, Open World participation is limited to individuals nominated for having shown leadership in their field. In addition to their professional achievements, the typical participant is about 35 years old, comes from a regional city, and holds an advanced degree. Knowledge of English is not required for participation in the program, and participation in Open World is limited to those who have never visited the United States.
Since 1999, American Councils has played an important role in the Open World Program as the logistics contractor. American Councils is responsible for coordinating with nominating organizations, processing applications, managing the visa application process, pre-departure and arrival orientations, scheduling and arranging international and U.S. travel and logistics, hiring and training facilitators to accompany the delegates, participant satisfaction surveys, coordination with host organizations, as well as handling travel and medical emergencies as they arise. American Councils advises the Open World Leadership Center on cultural and political matters relating to the countries where Open World operates, and provides insight and feedback on thematic programming. American Councils has a dedicated staff of eight employees in Washington, and 13 in Moscow who work on the program full-time, as well as staff in country and regional offices throughout Eurasia.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Who is the target audience for Open World? Who are hosts in the United States?
A: The Open World Program focuses on young, emerging political and civic leaders from all jurisdictional levels—federal, regional, and local. Program participants have included parliamentarians and their staff, mayors, judges, journalists, NGO directors, educators, and political party officials. Participants are on average in their mid-30s; and one-half have been women. Participants are hosted by Open World's partner hosting organizations, most of which are nonprofit, nongovernmental groups experienced in conducting foreign exchange programs with Open World countries. The host organizations usually provide home stays, most meals, cultural and community activities, and manage the participants' professional program. Hosts for parliamentary participants in the Open World Program are typically members of Congress or governors.
Q: What countries are currently in the Open World Program?
A: Current participants are from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Serbia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Russian, and Ukraine. Egypt and Mongolia programs will begin in 2013.
Q: I don't speak English, and not many Americans speak Russian and other languages. Is this an obstacle?
A: Not at all. The Open World Program is designed for first-time professionals who do not speak English. Orientation materials, program agendas, and other important documents are provided in the appropriate language. The program pays for qualified interpreters to provide translation services during the professional portion of the program. In addition, each Open World delegation includes at least one "facilitator," an English-speaking home country national (typically a graduate student or entry-level professional) who can assist the interpreter(s) and translate "after hours.”
Q: What happens when I return home?
A: Open World remains engaged with its alumni after they return home. The Center sponsors alumni conferences and publishes an electronic newsletter for and about alumni to which alumni contribute. The alumni program provides opportunities for past participants to attend U.S. Embassy and other U.S. government-sponsored events; and it encourages alumni to suggest possible nominating organizations or qualified Open World candidates. Open World also widely publicizes applicable grant or partnership opportunities that are available to program alumni through list serves that are tailored for each country in which it has a program.
Q: What is the role of the Open World Leadership Center? The U.S. Embassy? American Councils for International Education?
A: The program is administered by the Open World Leadership Center in Washington, DC.
The U.S. Embassies in the participating countries assist with the participant selection process, development of themes, and visa processing for program participants. Embassy staff play a key role in the development of the Center's parliamentary program, and also help organize and participate in alumni events.
American Councils, a nonprofit education, training, and consulting organization, provides logistical support to the Open World Leadership Center on a contractual basis. American Councils staff in Washington, D.C., assists with planning, makes participants' travel arrangements, and advises hosts on procedures and cross-cultural issues. Field-based staff assist with forming and placing delegations, organize a pre-departure orientation, and hire and train the English-speaking facilitators who accompany delegations.
Q: How can I participate?
A: The Open World Leadership Center invites organizations to nominate potential participants, who then submit applications through the nominating organization. Self-nominations are not accepted by the Center. The broad array of U.S., international governmental and nongovernmental organizations that serve as Open World nominating organizations are selected for this role on the basis of their extensive experience in Eurasia, their knowledge of the leadership community, and their commitment to meaningful exchange programs. Nominating organizations are provided with criteria for their nominees, as well as a list of the thematic areas on which the program will focus. For more information on the nominations procedures, you may email the Open World Leadership Center at email@example.com. For more information on the Open World Leadership Center and the Open World Program, please visit their website at www.openworld.gov.