Op-Ed: Meridian International Center to Re-define Global Service Leadership

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Written by Ambassador Stuart Holliday, Guest Contributor

For over 50 years Meridian International Center has been credited with leading innovative international diplomacy efforts through the exchange of ideas, people, and culture. These programs increase both political and cultural understanding on a global level. This month Meridian will continue to advance US public diplomacy efforts with the second Global Service Leaders Initiative (GSLI) Day of Service, this time in honor of the International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development, as observed by the United Nations in support of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The day of events, which is also known as International Volunteer Day (IVD), gives volunteers worldwide a chance to work together on projects and campaigns promoting economic and social development at local, national and international levels.

Last May, GSLI mobilized 50,000 volunteers in 50 countries and over 100 cities around the world to come together for one collaborative day of service. Building on this success, Meridian will double the impact, challenging service leaders in 100 countries to develop projects which accomplish two goals. Each project will highlight one of the MDGs and promote sustainability by recruiting volunteers from the communities they are benefiting. The individual projects range in focus from community clean-ups and mentoring for the unemployed to educating youth about the facts and myths of HIV/AIDS. Volunteers will track their activities through social media resources that include live tweets, Facebook posts, blogs, and pictures uploaded to a comprehensive volunteer map on December 5th. Projects will take place across six continents, in countries such as Haiti, India, the Gambia, Pakistan, Swaziland, Iraq, Albania, Vietnam, and many more.

Due to incredible achievements in technology and communication, the world has changed more in the past ten years than it has over the past 50. These trends make it more imperative than ever to strengthen global cooperation as opportunities arise in emerging markets all over the world. We at Meridian believe that the promotion of international volunteerism in support of socio-economic growth is a measure for driving global leadership and developing a cross-cultural understanding of complex global relationships.

GSLI targets leaders of volunteer movements around the world, connecting them with their peers to collectively explore how volunteerism can be scaled to promote sustainable solutions for global social issues. Now in its second year, GSLI supports service leaders on a virtual platform, allowing them to exchange ideas and best practices and explore collaboration on international campaigns such as this. Uniting under common goals rallies local communities to consider volunteerism in new ways.

Since Meridian’s inception in 1960, the Center has used programs such as GSLI to promote the power of exchange. Exchange, as we define it, is an experience as well as a discussion, meant to facilitate dialogue, innovation, and collaboration. Our programs help to better prepare current and future leaders to navigate complex challenges, as well as increase US engagement abroad. Furthermore, our strategy is to keep decision-makers involved beyond the initial time of their program. With the development of online networks, continued partner collaborations, and ongoing policy and cultural programs both here at Meridian and in other countries, we are making a long-term investment in developing global leadership.

Ambassador Stuart Holliday is President and CEO of Meridian International Center. Previously, Ambassador Holliday served as United States Ambassador for Special Political Affairs at the United Nations from 2003 to 2005.