Global Blueprint by World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh

Building consensus about ways to improve global fluency in the Pittsburgh region

What is global fluency, and how do you achieve it? That was the question posed by the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh in its Global Blueprint project.

With the help of a Community of Practice grant from The Sprout Fund, they partnered with Thrill Mill and Vibrant Pittsburgh to bring together a cross-section of community leaders and regular citizens from around the Pittsburgh region to engage in a discussion about global fluency, and then to come up with ideas about how to improve it.

Participants agreed that global fluency enables people to better understand the world they live in, creating educational, career and economic development opportunities they might not otherwise enjoy. Their challenge was to help chart a course to get there.

“People that attended were from such a range of different backgrounds and experiences,” says the World Affairs Council’s Emily Markham. “That made for really energizing and enlightening conversation that created ideas and thoughts and concepts and strategies that were well-balanced and representative of the Pittsburgh community as a whole.”

Over the course of three “think-do” workshops in early 2015, Global Blueprint participants discussed Pittsburgh’s current global fluency, which has been defined by The Brookings Institution in a 10-point list of characteristics, including leadership with a worldview, culture of knowledge and innovation, international connectivity, and others.

“People that attended were from such a range of different backgrounds and experiences.”

In these facilitated sessions, participants brainstormed about Pittsburgh’s strengths and weaknesses, addressing questions such as “How can we define Pittsburgh’s identity?” and “How do we reach Pittsburgh’s global future?”

They wrapped up by narrowing down the list to four focus areas:

  • Leveraging Pittsburgh’s world-class education by offering internships to international students, and better promote the global research taking place at area institutions;
  • Engaging more local people by connecting communities with similarly-situated neighborhoods abroad;
  • Reinvesting in transportation;
  • Using community festivals to better market, both nationally and internationally, the things that make Pittsburgh unique.

In the hopes of increasing global engagement in the region, those findings will be packaged in a compilation of recommendations to be used as a resource when continuing these conversations with interested stakeholders, community leaders, and policy makers, Markham says.

“How do we reach Pittsburgh’s global future?”

For the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, which was founded in 1931, the Global Blueprint project is something of a departure from its usual programming, which consists of a wide range of speaker programs and educational activities, Markham says.

“We weren’t sure how it would turn out,” she says. “But the response we received and the people who came to every single workshop and were engaged and were excited and continue to contribute to this day just makes us all excited for the future.”

Working with The Global Switchboard and helping build the region’s community of practice around global engagement seemed like a natural fit, even a necessity, Markham says.

“When I think of global engagement I think of awareness of global issues, of being an active participant in anything global and just being naturally curious about what’s happening in the world,” she says. “I see the Global Blueprint as a natural add-on to that.”


ARYSE Pittsburgh by ARYSE

Guiding college student campus groups to help immigrant youth do better in school


When a group of recent college graduates wanted to pass along what they learned about helping immigrant and refugee children get a better education, they formed an organization call ARYSE Pittsburgh.

ARYSE, which stands for the Alliance for Refugee Youth Support and Education, describes itself as “a coalition that shares a passion for improving the educational opportunities of disenfranchised immigrant youth, and seeks to improve their efforts and services through regular interaction.”

Founded in 2012, it’s an umbrella organization providing support and resources to three college student groups (FORGE CMU, FORGE Pitt, and Keep It Real) that work with immigrant and refugee children to help with English skills, tutoring and mentoring to better prepare them for school.

Resources include tips on fundraising and grant writing, training sessions and updates on best practices to improve their effectiveness, says Jenna Baron, Executive Director of ARYSE.

ARYSE received a Community of Practice grant from The Sprout Fund to coordinate a series of activities to help members of the student groups plan for the 2015 PRYSE Summer Academy, which runs for three weeks in July and August. ARYSE also plans monthly meetings, trainings for the youth leaders & college organizations, and advocacy events “to teach Pittsburghers about the vibrant communities that sculpt the city’s global identity.”

The PRYSE Academy is like a summer camp in which participants engage in a wide range of activities, including:

– Music, art, and theater workshops

– Writing and academic workshops

– Field trips throughout Pittsburgh

– Recreational activities like soccer and basketball

– College and career preparation workshops

– A final talent show in which campers showcase their projects

One of the main planning events was a weekend retreat in March at The Global Switchboard. The retreat brought together many of the students from the participating campus groups to meet with members of the immigrant and refugee community to hear about their experiences and learn about ways they could better meet their needs.

They also met with a facilitator to create a planning timeline, and even spent a session with a mindfulness instructor to bring a sense of calm and focus to their busy lives. The retreat was a big success, says Baron.

“Something we were hoping to come out of the retreat was that people would feel the sense of urgency as a leader and planning PRYSE Academy, and that’s exactly what happened,” she says. “The next week we had two people really step up as co-directors, and they have since done truly an amazing job at putting things in order and following the timeline. It was nice to have that real catalyst to start moving pretty fast and making those plans.”

“The retreat was a big success”

The work of ARYSE and its partner campus organizations really exemplifies – and thrives on – the community of practice concept of bringing together like-minded people to amplify their shared ideals, says Baron.

“It’s a way for us to support the undergrads who are already doing that incredible work for the city as our contribution to making Pittsburgh a place for internationals and immigrants and refugees to really feel like they’re welcome,” she says. “That’s why this community of practice grant is so relevant to ARYSE and how this really plays into making Pittsburgh a more global place.”

Connecting with The Global Switchboard also has been a boon to the work of groups like ARYSE, says Baron, whose own passion for assisting international newcomers, especially families with children, was sparked when she worked with a refugee family from Somalia.

“It’s a way for us to support the undergrads who are already doing that incredible work for the city as our contribution to making Pittsburgh a place for internationals and immigrants and refugees to really feel like they’re welcome”

“It just seems like the right place to grow the work we were already doing and get some more people behind us and supporting us,” she says. “I think every sector needs a Global Switchboard…because you lose so much when you don’t work together, and when you’re working in your own little silo, you’re not really seeing the whole picture.”

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Global Solutions Pittsburgh

Creating two-way conversations about international issues to increase global awareness

The way they see it at Global Solutions Pittsburgh, a two-way conversation is a better way to understand and learn about something than a lecture, especially when it comes to global issues. And Global Solutions Pittsburgh is all about helping make those conversations happen, in schools and in the community.

“One of the challenges that we see in our region is providing [international] education in a way that’s accessible and consumable to the general public, and that’s where we try to aim,” says Dan Giovannelli, Global Solutions Pittsburgh Executive Director.

In the schools, Global Solutions Pittsburgh provides resources and training for elementary and high school teachers, capping off with its flagship event, the Model United Nations, which place students in the roles of international diplomats trying to resolve global issues. Their programs touch more than 1,000 students per year.

“One of the challenges that we see in our region is providing [international] education in a way that’s accessible and consumable to the general public, and that’s where we try to aim”

In the community, it conducts a series of events and activities, the main one being the Global Challenges and Local Impacts discussion series held monthly at the Union Project. At this event, authorities on various topics – this year’s topics include immigration, energy, climate change and economic disparity – start out talking about what they know, and are then quickly engaged in conversations and Q&A with members of the community in an informal that strives for accessibility.

“I think that there really is a niche for people that are interested in these kinds of opportunities and interested in these kinds of issues, even if they don’t know they’re interested in these kinds of issues,” says Laura Amster, a Global Solutions Pittsburgh program manager who oversees the Global Challenges and Local Impact series. “That is a good way for us to get into the community and avail ourselves of different audiences that might not have the opportunity to go onto [a university] campus.”

The goal of all these conversations is to promote global awareness and understanding, and ultimately to make the world a more peaceful place. That was the concept behind creation of the global movement known as the United World Federalists, which included formation of a chapter in Pittsburgh, after World War II. They changed their name to Global Solutions in 2004.

The Federalists believed that the risk of future world wars could be reduced by strengthening democratic states and applying international law. In 1951, the first executive director of the Pittsburgh chapter, Maclean McLean, became Secretary General of the World Federalist Movement, headquartered in Amsterdam. After his four-year term, he resumed his position in Pittsburgh.

The resources provided today by Global Solutions Pittsburgh to teachers and students in the Pittsburgh region are invaluable, says one educator who makes good use of them.

“Global Solutions Pittsburgh is one of those institutions that if they didn’t exist, we would yearn for them to be formed as an organization,” says George Savarese, who teaches U.S. history and honors international relations at Mt. Lebanon High School, and also coaches the school’s Model U.N. team.

“They reach out to teachers, to students, they reach to the schools, and they reach out to the community,” he says. “They help me as a teacher to be a better teacher, a better coach, and to offer a better educational experience.”

“Global Solutions Pittsburgh is one of those institutions that if they didn’t exist, we would yearn for them to be formed as an organization”

In addition to familiarizing students with global issues, the Model U.N. also helps teach invaluable communications, independent thinking and research skills, not to mention good old-fashioned self confidence, Savarese says.

“Being the coach of the Model U.N., I’ve got 40 to 50 students who, if not for Global Solutions Pittsburgh and Model U.N., would basically be not as engaged and not as excited,” he says.

Global Solutions Pittsburgh’s commitment to expanding the conversation on the importance of international issues made participation in The Global Switchboard a natural step for the organization, which is the second major tenant in the project with Amizade Global Service-Learning, says Dan Giovannelli.

“We’re claiming to be Pittsburgh’s home for global engagement and what I love about that is that we don’t know what that means,” he says. “What’s exciting about it is that even two years ago nobody was asking what it meant to be a truly globally-engaged city….What we’re doing here is asking the question in a different way.”

The process of creating and building the Switchboard has been built on a two-way conversation about what global engagement means to different communities – both demographic communities and geographic communities – and that’s a good way to explore how improved international connections and awareness can generate positive benefits and opportunities for everyone in the city, Giovannelli says.

“I think the scale of the movement – the organizations coming together – is different than anything that has happened before, at least in a very long time, and it’s very exciting for the region,” he says. “Our work in the community enables people to be better citizens, better global citizens, however they define that themselves.”


Amizade Global Service-Learning

Connecting global learners with global communities for their mutual benefit

It’s a familiar scene. Teenagers playing ice-breaking games in a non-descript meeting space. Like most young people meeting each other for the first time, the kids are self-conscious at first. Soon they start loosening up. Some flap their arms like giant birds and move about the room. Others hunch over like large beasts. Dinosaurs maybe.

The differences between these teenagers are easy to see. Some are African-American, some are white. But the similarities aren’t so obvious.

The African-American kids live in Pittsburgh’s predominantly black Hill District. The white kids are visiting from Belfast, Northern Ireland, where generations of religious and political strife have created an atmosphere of discrimination, injustice and economic inequality. Everyone in this room knows what it’s like to live in a divided society.

They have been brought together by Amizade Global Service-Learning, the 21-year-old Pittsburgh-based organization that combines opportunities for service and learning for young people through exchange programs in the United States and 12 countries around the world.

Over the course of several days, the Hill District program has the kids working together to build a community playground and participating in their own story-telling project, with related activities in Washington, D.C., and Morgantown, W.Va. It’s part of a partnership between Amizade and the Education Authority, Northern Ireland’s education governing body.

This program is a great example of what Amizade does – connecting people from different countries and different backgrounds as a way of educating and benefiting everyone on both sides of the arrangement.

“Part of our fair trade learning initiatives are that we want to ensure as much reciprocity in our programming as possible,” says Brandon Blache-Cohen, Amizade’s Executive Director. “That means that we don’t only want to be taking American students and engaging them in Jamaica. We want to make sure that our friends in Jamaica have the same opportunity to explore, serve and learn in the United States, something that can change the course of someone’s life and offer a lot of professional development at the same time.”

Amizade means friendship in Portuguese, and it’s a name and a concept that reflect the organization’s roots in Brazil, where it started out in 1994 as a pioneer in the new concept of volunteer tourism – helping people looking for community service projects to do while they were on vacation.

“Part of our fair trade learning initiatives are that we want to ensure as much reciprocity in our programming as possible”

That quickly evolved into another new field – global service learning. Think of it as study abroad for community development. Now Amizade collaborates with universities, high schools, and community organizations to carry out its mission of “empowering individuals and communities through worldwide service and learning.”

So far they have empowered more than 9,000 people. Projects range from working on clean water issues in Tanzania to life-changing educational initiatives in the Navajo Nation and Bolivia. Other programs happen in Trinidad, Ghana, Brazil, Puerto Rico, and Poland.

One story of a life-changing experience through working with Amizade comes from Lidiane Castro of Santarem, Brazil. She came to Pittsburgh in 2013 to study English and volunteer at the Food City Fellows program at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, a summer community gardening program to help young people develop job skills, food awareness and healthy eating habits.

“The way I see the world is different now,” she says. “I learned that it doesn’t matter the place you are, you can always find a way to help people.”

The impact of Amizade projects is abundantly clear to community representatives. Celeta Hickman, founder of the Ujamaa Collective, a community-based organization that is one of Amizade’s partners in the Hill District.

“Most important to me is that young people here in the Hill learn to be good hosts, gracious hosts,” she says. “That creates a sense of power and dignity and self-respect about where you live, in spite of what you hear about the violence and the test scores and all that….You have just people in the everyday Hill that will welcome people and be gracious and have dignity and self-respect and pride in their community. At the same time you have people coming from other countries that share very similar values and have very similar experiences, some that are very sad and tragic and some that are filled with victory and glory and goodness.”

“The way I see the world is different now”

It was this sense of the importance of community and global engagement that inspired the people at Amizade to lead development of The Global Switchboard.

“There were a lot of organizations that were like-minded that had some sort of connection to international engagement, global education and the like, that were also invisible,” says Blache-Cohen. “And so the idea was born to share a building, to share a space, to share ideas, to form a coalition to start importing some of the great community development ideas we are all seeing around the world, and to start exporting the great ideas that Pittsburghers have to the rest of the world.”


The Switchboard Stories Project

Something’s brewing at The Global Switchboard! (Besides delicious fair trade coffee from Building New Hope.) This global co-working space is coming together for something exciting and essential: storytelling.

The Switchboard Stories Project will tell the story of Switchboard members as well as the Global Engagement Community of Practice projects funded by The Sprout Fund. Creatively sharing the stories and amplifying the voices of the many different globally engaged organizations and initiatives is integral to the project.
“We are excited to use the latest storytelling tools to capture the good work of the Switchboard members and the Community of Practice projects,” Buell shares. “Our goal is to highlight the globally-focused efforts of people in the Switchboard, and also the really amazing Community of Practice projects that are carrying that same message of global engagement into the community at large.”Thomas Buell, Jr., of VERSO PARTNERS: Communications, and Daniel Alexander, of Amizade, have been busy conducting interviews, snapping photos, and shooting  videos that will be turned into a multimedia package for each organization that will then be featured on the new Switchboard website launching this May! By the end of the year, each member of The Global Switchboard as well as and Community of Practice project activities will be included in the Switchboard Stories.

The first round of stories to grace the spotlight will be Amizade, Global Solutions Pittsburgh, the Somali Bantu Community Association, and the Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corp. Again, by the end of the year, all of the Switchboard members will be featured on the brand new Switchboard website.

The Community of Practice projects focus on activities designed to encourage and promote global engagement efforts in the region. Here are some of the inspiring programs whose stories will also be featured in the Switchboard Stories Project:

Hold on! The storytelling doesn’t stop there! After the Switchboard Stories Project is complete, plans call for opening up the process to other people and organizations in the Pittsburgh region, inviting them to use the text-photos-video format to tell their stories and further expand the reach of The Global Switchboard and the Community of Practice related to global engagement.

Check back in May for the new Switchboard website and first round of stories!