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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

23. Mutual Understanding


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The Department of State works to establish mutual understanding to:

Using the following strategies...

         Expose current, emerging and future foreign leaders to American values, language, ideas and methods in order to develop a network of current and future foreign leaders who will understand the United States and exert a multiplier effect on their societies.

         Promote study and research at U.S. institutions and their counterparts abroad via academic exchanges

         Engage emerging and current leaders in professional exchanges via International Visitors and Citizen Exchanges

         Increase knowledge and understanding of international issues and foreign societies and cultures among current, emerging and future American leaders.

         Promote independent study abroad

         Facilitate interaction between U.S. and foreign leaders

         Expand the paradigm of partnership in which the Bureau engages with the private and non-profit sectors, as well as with foreign governments.  Establish new partnerships and enhance long-lasting and productive relationships between U.S. and foreign individuals and institutions.

         Program to link exchange alumni of U.S. and other countries

         Require cost-sharing and other forms of partnership in grant proposals

         Leverage increased levels of public and private financial and in-kind support within the U.S. and abroad.

         Advise missions on fundraising strategies

         Require direct and indirect cost-sharing in grant proposals



Taken in total, exchange programs between the people of the United States and people of other countries are a powerful tool for foreign policy.  Here are a couple of examples:

Exchanges affect current and future leaders.  Many indicators demonstrate that exceptional individuals for our exchange programs are selected.  More than 23 Fulbright Program alumni are Nobel laureates, and over 35 are Pulitzer Prize winners.  Over 200 current and former heads of state participated in the International Visitor (IV) Program.   These distinguished IV alumni include the current prime ministers of Germany, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, New Zealand, Croatia, Senegal and India, and the current Presidents of Kenya, Uganda, Korea, Macedonia, India, Israel, Chile, and Argentina.

We are currently cataloging our program alumni who are "prominent" in their respective sectors.  As of September 30, 2001, we identified over 1,700 foreign and 400 U.S. distinguished former program participants. 

Success is also gauged through qualitative data.  A few examples:

Finnish Editor-in-Chief Advocates for United States.  Matti Apunen, Editor-in-Chief of Aamulehti (a leading Finnish regional daily), returned home from an International Visitor program as a powerful advocate for the United States and its campaign against terrorism.  In an editorial, he opined, "Finland is a neutral country, but in the search of criminals and the war on crime, Finland cannot be neutral.  Remaining an outsider in the war on terrorism amounts to the wrong kind of neutrality and cowardice."

International Visitors Alumni Head Indonesia Government.  The newly elected President of Indonesia, Megawati Sukarnoputri, participated in the International Visitor Program in 1988 and a Voluntary Visitor Program in 1992.  The Minister of Defense was a Voluntary Visitor in 2000, and the Minister of National Education was an IV in 1991.

Program Alumni Appointed to Key Positions in Bush Administration.  Several alumni of the Department of State's American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL) have been appointed to key positions in the new Administration.  These include Attorney General John Ashcroft, Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy Margaret La Montagne, and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales.   Each year, ACYPL conducts a series of 2-week study tours, involving up to 25 delegations of seven to nine members each, to promote ties between young Republicans and Democrats and young political leaders throughout the world.  Its reciprocal programs promote democratic values in emerging democracies and strengthen ties with future leaders in established democracies.

U.S. Department of State Quickly Implements New Opportunity for Americans to Study Abroad.  In the fall of 2001, 140 undergraduates are studying abroad on Benjamin A. Gilman fellowships, the first Federal study abroad assistance program for U.S. undergraduates, which provides up to $5,000 for study abroad programs to students receiving federal financial aid.  The competition, the first of three planned for this academic year, generated 20 applications for every available slot, with award winners representing 41 states and broad ethnic diversity.  The Institute of International Education, the program partner, reports increasingly heavy use of the Gilman Web site, www.iie.org/gilman

Spanish Government Creates International Visitor Program.  The Spanish Government has created a U.S.-style International Visitor program, patterned on the Department's model.  The program's new director spent 2 weeks in the U.S. as a Voluntary Visitor in the fall of 2000 to take an in-depth look at how the IV program operates and what makes it a success. 

Albanian Minister of Education Endorses Project to Train 3,000 Civics Teachers.  Education Minister Ethem Ruka presented a letter of support to U.S. project director Ted Kaltsounis for continued cooperation on the SEED-funded civic education project currently supported by the Department through a grant to the University of Washington.  The agreement clears the way for the creation of five civic education resource centers that will train 3,000 teachers to use a new civic education curriculum in Albanian schools. 

State Department Pioneers Electronic Outreach in Trilateral Art Exhibit. On April 3, 2001 the U.S. Department of State, along with the governments of Mexico, and Canada, launched the first international art exhibit for the Internet entitled  "Panoramas: The North American Landscape in Art."  R. Susan Wood, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs affirmed, "This unique virtual exhibit exemplifies the cooperative spirit of our North American Partnership...it is a splendid example of modern technology at the service of cultural diplomacy and mutual understanding."

English Language Program Link Kurds and Turks To Promote Peace.  An English language institute in southeastern Turkey linked English teaching with peace education through a series of programs to help Turkey rebuild the area torn apart by 15 years of social unrest.  In support of the goal for "mutual understanding," the institute brought together a cross-section of university teachers in Turkey, including ethnic Kurds, exposing them to teaching methods on conflict resolution and promoting a culture of peace.  The English-Language officer based in Ankara organized the institute.

Exchanges are life-changing experiences for participants.  Anecdotal evidence and individual "success stories" like these are reinforced by the results of independent survey-research evaluations contracted by the Department over the past several years.  We consolidated responses to 11 question areas from nine of these comprehensive program evaluations to test whether the exchange programs had an effect on participants and whether the effect was long lasting:

Area of Impact

Average Response

Participants who gained new knowledge/skills

88 %

Participants who changed their behavior

73 %

A professional benefit to the participant (promotion, change in direction)

68 %

A professional benefit to the institution or wider community

76 %

Continued contact with the host country

76 %

Continued contact with the U.S. Mission

27 %

Continued interest with the host country

82 %

Returned visitation to the host country

38 %

An understanding or positive view of the host country

92 %

The perceived value of the program by the participant

97 %


As with all exchanges, the theory behind these programs is that

IF:  People are given exposure to new ideas, concepts, values, or information,

THEN:  They enhance their knowledge, understanding and/or skill level.

IF:  They enhance their knowledge, understanding and/or skill level,

THEN:  They are likely to change their behavior or take action.

IF:  They change their behavior, takes action, or produces something different,

THEN:  They will influence or inform others around them.

IF:  Others are influenced or informed,

THEN:  Institutions and organizations begin to change.

IF:  Institutions and organizations change,

THEN:  Societies begin to change.

The surveys were based on a combined participant population of 5,272, out of which, 3,484 responded for an average response rate of 66 percent.

Although not all areas of questioning were asked in each evaluation project, the general information is impressive.  We are now working to ask a set of similar questions in all evaluations to make it easier to compare across programs. Some of these areas of questioning include:

-         To what extent is there continued communication between people of the United States and people of other countries?

-         To what extent did the program further the education, training, and skills of the key audiences?

-         To what extent did the program promote an understanding and appreciation of the United States and/or host country?

In 2001, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs completed four evaluations, two of which were pilot projects for testing evaluation of exchanges methodology.  A summary of the findings and recommendations are listed below.

The purpose of the Cincinnati Domestic Impact Study was to test methodology and collect baseline data to assess the impact of Federally funded international professional exchange programs on American communities.  The Greater Cincinnati area was used as a test case.  Two pilot questionnaires were distributed to two groups of 1,518 U.S. host respondents and resulted in a combined response rate of 17 percent.   Key findings concluded that exchanges:

         Promote a better understanding of foreign relations

         Are life-changing experiences

         Promote international friendship and peace

         Demonstrate the United States, as a whole, is interested in the development and stability of other nations

Next steps:  The methodology appeared successful; therefore, ECA will undertake additional domestic impact studies in other U.S. cities/regions with more emphasis on looking at "impact." 

The purpose of the International Visitor Program Impact Evaluation System (IES) Pilot Study was to design and test an evaluation system that collects, analyzes, and reports program impact and results information in an ongoing, systematic manner.  The Pilot Study, which was conducted for a 3-month period and incorporated 56 International Visitor (IV) participants from Hungary and Moldova.  We are now streamlining evaluation procedures as a result of the pilot.

         Alumni reported having a more realistic view of the United States and people of the U.S.

         IV alumni reported plans to share their experiences and information obtained during their IV program with colleagues, others in their field, government officials, students, media outlets, etc.

         IV alumni reported an increase in professional knowledge and understanding.

         IV alumni have made key accomplishments related to their IV experiences.  

Preliminary findings from two other program evaluations completed in
FY '01, but not yet released, point to the success of ECA exchange programs.

The U.S. Fulbright Scholar Program Outcome Assessment was designed to document the results of the U.S. Fulbright Scholar Program, including the professional achievements of alumni, the contribution of the program experience to Scholars' lives, and the extent to which the program has met its legislative mandate.   A random stratified sample of U.S. Fulbright Scholars was identified from the 15,659 alumni who lectured and/or conducted research overseas between the academic years of 1976 and 1998.   A total of 1,911 names were selected in the sample in order to identify 1,004 valid addresses of Scholars for administration of the project survey.  Using a Web-based survey as the primary data collection tool, 801 valid completed questionnaires were received by the time the survey closed out for a remarkable 80% response rate. 

The preliminary findings are impressive.  A small selection of the numerous findings are listed, as follows:

         Ninety-eight percent of Scholars found their Fulbright experience to be valuable and agreed that it gave them a deeper understanding of their host country; 0% disagreed. 

         Ninety-seven percent of Scholars have maintained communication with their host countries; and 77% of Scholars reported continued collaboration with colleagues. 

         Ninety-five percent of Scholars have changed their professional activities as a result of their grant; 93% of Scholars reported the incorporation of materials, data and information obtained during their grant into subsequent professional presentations, publications or other works. 

         Sixty-nine percent of Scholars have initiated or facilitated other international exchanges of students or professional since completing their Fulbright grant. 

The purpose of the Edmund S. Muskie/FSA Graduate Fellowship Programs evaluation was three-fold:  1) to assess the extent to which the program has achieved its goal of providing participants with significant knowledge, skills, and experience with which to become leaders within their designated fields; 2) to explore how individual career and personal developments and attitudes are related to societal economic and democratic reform; and 3) to better understand alumni needs and solicit ideas for future alumni activities.  Face-to-face surveys were administered to 280 alumni and 459 semifinalists in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Georgia who participated in or applied to the program between 1992 and 1996. Overall response rates were 33% and 21% for alumni and semifinalists, respectively.

The results suggest that the program has been successful in fostering the immediate goal of individual career and personal development.  Alumni have moved at greater rates into key sectors and fields and are more likely to be positioned internationally.  Moreover, alumni appear to have more influence within their organizations than do the semi-finalists:  they report significantly higher incomes, indicate greater job satisfaction and less desire to change jobs, supervise significantly more employees, and perhaps most importantly, evince more democratic ideas about workplace leadership.  Most alumni indicate that they directly utilize the technical and substantive knowledge they gained in the United States in their current jobs. 

The most important recommendation to emerge from the evaluation is the need to recognize that the alumni are the program's most valuable resource, and that in order to stay in contact with these highly mobile and successful professionals, significant financial resources need to be invested in maintaining contact with alumni and understanding their choices regarding career and geographic locales. 

Taken together, the evaluations demonstrate that exchange programs are an effective way to engage people from other countries and promote a more realistic understanding of the United States, its people, and policies.  The most consistent recommendation is that alumni are critical to furthering these goals and that resources will need to be devoted to keeping in touch with and supporting them after the exchange activity.


National Interest
Diplomatic Activities
Performance Goal #
MU-01
Strategic Goal
Mutual Understanding

Improve and strengthen the international relations of the United States by promoting better mutual understanding between the people of the United States and peoples of the world through educational and cultural exchanges.

Performance Goal

Increased communication with emergent and current foreign leaders through exchanges; better American understanding of foreign cultures through exchanges; and high quality programs that demonstrate the creativity, diversity, and openness of American culture and society.

FY '01 RESULTS AS OF 9/30/01

         During FY '01 ECA exchanged over 11,500 Americans and 17,100 foreign visitors and leveraged over $172 million in private sector funds to increase communication with emergent and foreign leaders.  To meet the goal of improving American understanding of foreign cultures, ECA launched two opportunities for Americans to go abroad, the Benjamin Gilman Fellowship and the Fulbright Specialist Program.  The Gilman Fellowship provided support to 140 U.S. undergraduates needing financial assistance to study overseas.  The Fulbright Specialist Program provided the opportunity for 37 U.S. faculty and professionals, unable to go overseas for an extended period of time, to collaborate with professional counterparts on curriculum and faculty development, institutional planning and other activities by presenting lectures, leading workshops and seminars, conducting needs assessments and developing academic curricula and educational materials.  As one example of how the Department achieves high-quality programs that demonstrate creativity and diversity of American culture, ECA initiated the Fulbright New Century Scholars Program, where 30 Scholars from the United States and abroad collaborated on "Challenges of Health in a Borderless World."   In FY '01, more resources were applied to alumni contact and activities, in order to continue to reap rewards from the investments made in people.   This strategy is backed up by the data from several evaluations.

         One of the key changes that occurs is better or mutual understanding between the people of the United States and people of other countries.  The goal was only partially achieved in FY '01.  While opportunities for Americans to go abroad increased, the events of September 11 clearly demonstrated that mutual understanding is not universal.  The strategies to inform and influence elites and leaders in key regions was not fully implemented because of a lack of funding.  In the last decade there has been a 20 percent decline in exchanges.  In FY '01, for example we reached approximately 1,000 participants in North Africa, the Middle East, and the Gulf states (315 Americans, 751 foreigners).  Contrast this with our success in reaching critical audiences in the former Soviet Union where the number of participants reached is over 6,000, largely funded under FREEDOM Support Act.  ECA will be reallocating its resources to increase exchanges in these regions.  However, this is still insufficient as we see that entire educational systems, such as the madrassahss teach ideas of intolerance to the Western values and ideas.  

         We are confident that exchange programs are central to winning the war against misunderstanding.  In FY '01, ECA consolidated responses to 11 question areas in nine independent evaluations of its international educational exchange programs and found 76 percent of exchange alumni reported maintaining contact with someone in their host country; 82 percent reported maintaining an interest in the affairs of their host country; and 92 percent developed a positive view of their host country.  For ECA, these indicators are intermediate outcome measures.  The evidence suggests that exchanges are an effective way to engage and continue communication with people.  The outcome measures correspond well to the customer service performance indicator listed below.  Combined, the measures illustrate that ECA program participants are satisfied with their experiences and the programs are having an effect.  For FY '99 and '00, ECA only used the customer service measure, which we found to be insufficient for indicating success and results.  ECA will be adding some immediate outcome and other intermediate outcome measures to its performance indicators in future performance plans to better track and report success.  The additional measures are currently being developed.  Once developed and used, ECA will adjust the target figures based on the data

RESULTS AS OF 9/30/01 (cont'd)

collected.  ECA completed two evaluations and received preliminary results in two other evaluations in FY '01.  The findings are consistent with the evaluations cited above.  Findings for the Domestic Impact of Professional Exchanges, International Visitor Overseas Impact Evaluation System, Fulbright U.S. Scholar Outcome Assessment, and the Edmund S. Muskie/FSA Graduate Fellowship Programs Evaluation all showed that alumni are gaining new knowledge and skills, a more realistic understanding of the United States and its people, and are maintaining contact with people they met while in the United States.  While there were many minor recommendations for program adjustments, the most consistent is the need to devote resources to keeping in touch with and providing on going activity for former program participants.  Program alumni are the program's most valuable resource and ECA could more likely achieve the far-reaching outcomes by staying connected to these key contacts.

         To enhance its ability to report on performance and outcomes, ECA worked with GAO, the American Evaluation Association, and with other agencies through the Interagency Working Group for International Exchanges and Training. 

         For the coming year, ECA will reallocate funds to critical geographic areas in the war against terrorism and it will evaluate its performance through enhanced performance indicators and evaluations of the Fulbright Visiting Student Program, Tibet Fund, International Visitors Program, Fund for U.S. Artists, and College and University Affiliations.


Performance Indicator

FY '99 Baseline

FY '00 Target

FY '01 Target

FY '01 Actual

         Favorable U.S.-and Mission-produced GPRA reports

         Independent polling and analysis of success

         Positive professional program evaluations

         Positive participant evaluations

60% ratings of "highly successful"

65% ratings of "highly successful"

70% ratings of highly successful

97 % rating of highly successful by participants (perceived program value)

90 % rating of success based on immediate outcomes (change in knowledge, skill, understanding or perception)

73 % rating of success based on intermediate outcomes (change in behavior, action or situation)

Verification

Source:  U.S. Mission reporting, independent program evaluations, open sources

Storage:  Department of State files

Countries

Worldwide

Lead Agency

Department of State

Partners

Department of State:  AF, EAP, EUR, NEA, SA, WHA, H, AC, DRL, EB, IIP, IO, INL, NP, OES, PA, PM, PRM, S/P, PICW, S/WCI, VC, INR

Other U.S. Government: Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Peace Corps, Treasury, U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Trade Representative, General Accounting Office, General Services Administration

Multilateral:  Nongovernmental organizations:  Program partner organizations, U.S. universities and colleges, foreign universities and colleges, associations




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