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.”

Picture Gallery


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.”


Membership Opportunities Expand at The Global Switchboard

This month marks a year since Amizade and Global Solutions Pittsburgh teamed up to open The Global Switchboard. A lot has happened since then! Last May, the Switchboard started off strong with 8 members, exceeding its goal of 6, and growing to 12 members within the first six months. The Global Switchboard strives to be more than just a building for shared work space by continuously seeking out opportunities to collaborate together. One of our collaborative successes from this year includes the Community of Practice convenings and grants made possible by the Sprout Fund. These opportunities helped individual organizations to increase their visibility and allowed for easier collaboration between organizations. The majority of Switchboard members participated in these grants. While we celebrate our successes, we’re also eager to grow and improve.

Jennifer Novelli of Building New Hope, one of the Community of Practice grant recipients, reflects on her positive experience at the Switchboard: “I joined Building New Hope in January 2015 as their new executive director. The chance to network and interact with the people and organizations at The Global Switchboard was a real plus for me in deciding to take a chance on the job… I am thrilled that our fair city has an internationally focused co-working space and community of practice.”

One major way the Switchboard hopes to continue growing is by expanding its membership options. Until this month, the Switchboard focused on seeding our coworking space with a committed group of members. But, we’ve always known that to truly become Pittsburgh’s home for Global Engagement our coalition needs to extend far, far beyond the walls of our coworking space. To solve this problem, we are launching a 3-tiered membership system. Now, individuals and groups can become contributing members of the Switchboard community independently of their need for physical working space. Introducing The Global Switchboard’s brand new multi-tiered membership system:

The Global Switchboard Full Tenant Members – $200/month

  • Reserved desk
  • Free, bottomless fair trade coffee
  • Access to office amenities
  • Unlimited access to reservable event & conference space
  • Inclusion in the The Global Switchboard Newsletter
  • Access to member and community of practice events
  • The Global Switchboard Full Tenant Member badge

The Global Switchboard Half Tenant Members- $150/month

  • Use of upstairs workspace for one employee/volunteer at a time
  • Free, bottomless fair trade coffee
  • Access to office amenities
  • Unlimited access to reservable event & conference space
  • Inclusion in the The Global Switchboard Newsletter
  • Access to member and community of practice events
  • The Global Switchboard Half Tenant Member badge

The Global Switchboard Network – $150/year

  • Reduced rental rates for reservable event & conference space (members of the Network will be charged Standard Day Rates only, e.g. no increase for evening and weekends. See rental rates below.
  • Inclusion in the The Global Switchboard Newsletter
  • Access to community of practice events
  • The Global Switchboard Network badge

Rental Rates

  • Standard Day Rates (between 8am – 5pm)
    • $15/hour – Small Conference room
    • $15/hour – Large Conference room
    • $15/hour – Lounge
    • $25/hour – 2nd Floor Meeting room
  • Evening/Weekend Rates (M-F anytime after 5pm, Saturday & Sunday all day)
    • $30/hour – Small Conference room
    • $30/hour – Large Conference room
    • $30/hour – Lounge
    • $50/hour – 2nd Floor Meeting room

We want to thank everyone who has made The Global Switchboard possible. We look forward to the new partnerships and projects the future will bring. We hope that individuals and organizations based in Pittsburgh will consider their own role within this community of practice by joining the coalition. Together we can take steps to create an interconnected global community where all people can fully engage to build a more socially just and equitable world.

The Global Switchboard Newsletter Launch

The Global Switchboard is pleased to announce the first edition of its monthly Newsletter! This long-awaited project is one of many incremental steps in improving our communication internally and externally. It is a platform for telling our story and spreading the word about our accessibility and abilities. And it’s shared beyond our walls, to people who care about this initiative to make Pittsburgh more global. To fully appreciate the message and goals behind the Newsletter, Switchboard Project Manager and Amizade Project Director Nathan Darity brings us back to the Switchboard’s origins.

Where did the idea of The Global Switchboard come from?

The motivation for this project was and is increased visibility and belief in the power of collaboration. Nathan says, “There is a long-standing understanding among internationally focused organizations in Pittsburgh that we do our work invisibly–and we wanted to become more visible. Creating a critical mass would help us advocate and attract more funding for the important work that we do.” He adds that such organizations often find themselves working in collaboration anyway, as they often lack the individual resources to tackle larger projects.

“For years,” Nathan says, “there was discussion of a hub that unified the globally focused organizations in the city.” Ideas of launching a new organization or creating an association floated about, but nothing took. Amizade eventually decided to help facilitate the creation of The Global Switchboard in order to make it happen. They met with many organizations in the planning process, and thus shaped the Switchboard in a collaborative, democratic way that backed the message behind the initiative.

Amizade, formally located Downtown, did an extensive search for the global hub’s new home. “After searching out different options, we turned to Lawrenceville,” recounts Nathan. “Lawrenceville United and Lawrenceville Corporation met us with open arms, and helped us to beautify the area around the current office and create our sign. There was phenomenal local support.” To get the Switchboard up and running, Amizade needed to partner with an anchoring organization.

Global Solutions Pittsburgh, a fellow non-profit that has been providing nonpartisan, internationally-focused education to schools and communities throughout western Pennsylvania for more than 60 years, turned out to be that needed anchor. Once they signed the lease with Amizade for the new hub space, the global ball really got rolling.

“When we launched, we had more groups than we ever imagined we would,” Nathan remarks.

The Global Switchboard is currently operating at near full capacity with 11 member organizations. However, the element of engagement within the Switchboard network goes beyond sharing space. Over the next few months, the Switchboard will continue to develop its programmatic core with the help of the new Switchboard Intern, Jocelyn Inlay.

As a platform for collective action, The Global Switchboard will continue its efforts towards taking on bigger global advocacy, wielding collective resources to take on larger development projects, and contributing to a global citizenship ethic with the empathy required to live an a just and equitable world.