The International Visitors Leadership Program, or IVLP, is the Department of State’s flagship professional exchange program. It is one of the most common forms of programming we implement at the San Diego Diplomacy Council. Having recently celebrated its 80th anniversary, the IVLP is a testament to the immutable power of citizen diplomacy.
We are proud to represent San Diego through this incredible program, and grateful to have such wonderful partners in the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, across our many National Programming Agency partners, and at Global Ties U.S.
Our program intern, Jacob Cardenas, shares his thoughts on the history of IVLP below.
Crafting an Identity
One of the greatest challenges a nation faces when it comes to projecting itself onto the international stage is finding an effective way to convince others that they are as great as they believe themselves to be. Through time, a number of different approaches to this have been developed and implemented. One of the most effective, both in terms of projection and participant resonation, is the international exchange program.
In an international exchange, a nation opens itself up to small groups of foreign nationals and guides them through critical aspects about the functions of the host nation. Visiting foreign nationals often learn about the function of governments, the importance of businesses in the economy and local community, and in more recent times how one nation is positioning itself to combat climate change effectively.
America’s Swing at It
In the United States, one of the premier programs that demonstrates the better aspects of America to foreign visitors through programs is the International Visitor Leadership Program. The IVLP was originally developed in the early 1940’s to improve the United States’ image in Latin America after years of hard power. But it wasn’t until the immediate postwar years that the United States implemented the program in earnest, to combat the rising influence of the Soviet Union in developing nations
As time went on, and the Cold War actually cooled down, the International Visitor Leadership Program expanded its outreach and opportunities. Visitors got to see more cities in the United States and understand more aspects of American life. It became more reflective of the America that Americans themselves saw.
The IVLP in San Diego
San Diego has been a city that has welcomed the IVLP for years now. Its rising prominence in the American metropolitan landscape has led to an increase in the number of IVLP programs that visit and a widening in the variety of said programs in terms of their activities and missions. SDDC has been at the forefront of this movement. We are proud to organize and facilitate IVLP programs that demonstrate the excellent partnerships and initiatives available throughout San Diego.
One recent program that we hosted focused on the empowerment of women as crucial links in communities torn apart by violence and war. By reminding these women that they are vital to their communities, especially in times of strife and uncertainty, the San Diego Diplomacy Council through the IVLP, makes a tangible change in the lives of women worldwide.
The San Diego Diplomacy Council has also hosted IVLP programs with an economic focus. In 2023, the SDDC taught visitors about the importance of incentivizing green energy, and informed them of how powerful an economic driving force it can be.
Lessons Learned and Sights Set
To say that the IVLP is influential is an understatement. It is a tool used to spread knowledge and ideas to places that stand to benefit from the dissemination of said knowledge. The IVLP and the San Diego Diplomacy Council have, and will continue to make real, lasting change in communities around the world through these programs and initiatives.