2023 Year in Review

People-to-people exchanges bring the world closer together. In 2023, Global Ties San Francisco reaffirmed its steadfast commitment to fostering global connections, facilitating interactions between 486 exchange participants and over 500 local experts and community members. As we continued our safe and steady return to full capacity, we used this transitional period to expand the scope and vibrancy of our exchange programs.

Help support our continued growth and impact with a donation to our organization today, and join us in celebrating this remarkable year.

We at Global Ties San Francisco are proud to showcase the results of our 2023 exchange program activities made possible with the support of our community and program partners:

Through our work with the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) and other customized programs, we welcomed 486 exchange participants to the San Francisco Bay Area—including 435 international visitors representing 130 countries, and 51 up-and-coming U.S. Citizen exchange alumni.

Top delegation subject matter:

  • Democracy and human rights
  • Cybersecurity and information technology
  • Entrepreneurship and economic opportunity
  • Journalism, combating disinformation, and media literacy
  • Environmental protection/conservation and the climate crisis

Let’s take a closer look at our recent adventures in subnational diplomacy.

Top Highlights

Highlights in Depth

IVLP Special Initiative – A Global Moment in Time: Reflections on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility

February 14-18

A large-scale project consisting of 72 visitors from 53 countries. After six months of planning and partner collaboration, we brought this IVLP Special Initiative to life through a three-day conference-style and cultural exchange event. We arranged an impactful plenary speaker; four concurrent panel discussions covering a diversity of critical topics and sectors; a collective Twilight Cruise; three Guided City Tours; a Muir Woods National Monument Excursion; and a museum crawl.

Our sincere thanks to all of those who helped make this such a success — our D.C. program partners and the fantastic liaisons who juggled more moving pieces than ever before, our hotel staff and drivers, and our amazing speakers who joined us in full support.

Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development | Multi-Regional

April 17-22

We arranged a well-rounded program for this entrepreneurial IVLP group of 20 visitors! We received feedback that the group “loved the diversity of the city and meetings with startups and incubators in the tech sector, with one Visitor adding that the State Department ‘Kept the best (city) for last.’ A favorite of these meetings was the one with Centro Community Partners, which led to most of them downloading the organization’s mobile application designed to help people quickly and succinctly develop a business plan.”

In addition, we also presented the group with an exclusive cultural exchange mixer held at and in collaboration with World Affairs and their Emerging Leaders Club. After hearing from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, visitors and young adult club members got to know one another speed-dating style.

Welcome to the Team, Oli!

May 15

Global Ties San Francisco welcomed its newest team member, Oli Vorster, International Program Coordinator! Be sure to check out their 2023 year-end reflections for a fresh perspective on our work.

Cyber Policy and Infrastructure Protection | Uzbekistan

May 27-June 1

We closed out May with an IVLP group from Uzbekistan focused on Cyber Policy and Infrastructure Protection for Countering Transnational Threats in a Digital World. These five government officials—including an advisor to the President—took a deep dive into critical aspects of cyber security and policymaking, extending several earnest invitations to our local interlocutors for future collaboration as Uzbekistan develops key #InfoSec and cyber policies.

Reducing Ocean Pollution: Tackling Marine Debris for the Indo-Pacific | Inter-Regional

June 18-24

This IVLP project provided us an opportunity to showcase our strengths programming across our geographic region—with successful arrangements from Monterey through Santa Cruz to San Francisco and the East Bay. Visitor feedback demonstrated their enthusiasm for our efforts. Regarding a high-impact, “once-in-a-lifetime” meeting we scheduled with MBARI: “they raved about this meeting. A big hit! One participant called it ‘the NASA of marine environmental protection’.” The cherry on top? We also arranged for the group an International Visitor Mixer in collaboration with World Affairs, a continuation of our earlier engagements with this mission-aligned organization.

Oli attends Diplomacy Begins Here Regional Summit in Vermont

August 21-22

International Program Coordinator Oli Vorster attended the Vermont Council on World Affairs and Global Ties U.S. Diplomacy Begins Here Regional Summit: Building an Inclusive Climate Movement in Burlington, Vermont. This two-day event explored how an inclusive and global approach to climate change can help address these disparities and create a more sustainable future for all.

Hosted in partnership with the U.S. Department of State and Global Ties U.S. Community-Based Members (like ourselves), Diplomacy Begins Here Regional Summits take place in predetermined host cities a few times each year. They bring together Global Ties U.S. Network Members and leaders in business, government, and more to engage around exchange programming and issues.

Did you know we hosted a Summit back on September 30, 2016? 175 people gathered in Oakland for our exploration into California’s global leadership in agriculture, water, and energy innovation. See more here!

Identifying and Combating Disinformation in the Quad | Japan, India, Australia

August 29 – September 2

One of the first IVLP projects led by our new International Program Coordinator, Oli Vorster, this project gave Global Ties San Francisco the opportunity to showcase our strengths covering complex topics and providing diverse perspectives.

Positive responses from program participants reflected the delegation’s overall enthusiasm. For instance, participants at a meeting organized with Stanford University’s Global Digital Policy Incubator (GDPi) described it as “one of their favorite and most impactful during their time in the United States” because of strategic discussions about the Quad’s role, learning directly from faculty about their latest research findings, and getting a government perspective from faculty who had previously served at the White House.

The visitors also appreciated Stanford’s pedagogical approaches to teaching digital skepticism and unique insights into conceptualizing cybersecurity at the national and international levels. In addition, the delegation enjoyed hearing from youth voices from student leaders at San Francisco State University, which helped “conceptualize the role of education in youth tackling disinformation and misinformation.”

Read more from our National Program Agency (NPA) program partner for this project, Meridian International Center!

Indigenous Leadership in Collaborative Management of Protected Areas | Chile

September 3-7

An absolutely phenomenal IVLP topic area that we were honored to be a part of! Huge thanks in particular to the Tribal Marine Stewards Network for bringing together tribal leaders from across the state to meet with our Chilean counterparts on environmental stewardship.

September 23-24

Our Career Connections San Francisco capacity-building and professional development conference featured 96% attendance and high-level speakers from LinkedIn, Meta, Netflix, Google, a venture capital firm, an angel investor, and a local Diplomat-in-Residence. Read our full recap here.

Deaf Education and Early Intervention | Thailand

November 1-4

A dynamic Thai IVLP group with Thai Sign Language, American Sign Language, and Thai-English interpretation, along with fantastic meeting hosts and cultural activities!

Women and Entrepreneurship: Startups | Multi-Regional

November 10-15

This IVLP project illustrated the impact of women-owned businesses on the U.S. economy and in the global economy. The visitors engaged with representatives of private companies, chambers of commerce, business incubators, financial institutions, as well as mentorship and other professional associations, exploring the social and economic factors that impact and encourage women as entrepreneurs and leaders of startup businesses.

While all meetings were well received, particular kudos are due to the San Francisco African American Chamber of Commerce (SFAACC), who gathered an impressive 25-speaker lineup that provided a thoughtful array of perspectives and discussion. Project participants appreciated their inspiring efforts to support local African American and women business owners in California, as well as having the opportunity to learn about each other’s endeavors.

One visitor remarked of the SFAACC meeting: “This was one of the rewarding meeting sessions thus far during our IVLP programming.” Another commented: “I greatly appreciated the deep knowledge about the California business climate offered by all speakers present.”

Final Thoughts

This incredible year was all made possible by the collaborative efforts of our community, program partners both near and far, and our dynamic and driven visitors. Thank you joining us on this journey through 2023, a year that exemplified our commitment to rebuilding and reinforcing the bonds that unite us globally. Here’s to 2024!