Open World Flashback – Fondly Reminiscing About Our Delegations

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Open World Flashback – Fondly Reminiscing About Our Delegations

The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation (USUF) is honored to serve as the administrator for a dozen or so exchange visits annually of groups of Ukrainian emerging leaders under the auspices of the Open World Leadership Center.  Since a number of planned delegation visits for the current year have been postponed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we thought this would be a good time to reminisce about some of the delegations that the Foundation has hosted in the Washington area in recent years.

Corporate Social Responsibility Delegation

In Mach of this year, a delegation of Ukrainian professionals engaged in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)/Community Development and related activities visited the Washington, DC area under the auspices of the Open World Leadership Center to learn about American experiences and best practices in the field.  The group’s week-long program was organized and hosted by the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation (USUF).  The members of the delegation were Alina Bocharnikova (Coordinator for the Development of Social Entrepreneurship at the Agency for the Development of the Future), Olha Boiko (Leading CSR Specialist at Auchan Ukraine Hypermarket), Oleksandra Chuchko (“Three After Midnight” Museum), Heorhiy Harkusha (Head of Social Projects and CSR at Nova Poshta Center), Vladyslav Malashchenko (Good Bread From Good People bakery) and Dana Kavara (Facilitator from American Councils).

As was emphasized during many of the meetings, CSR is more than just philanthropy.  It is a company ethos that places a high value on giving back to the community and sustainable development.  And it often involves partnerships and collaboration between companies, non-profits and government.

The delegates received the latest academic analysis regarding CSR trends, successes and challenges from Professor Heather Elms (American University) and Professor John Forrer (George Washington University).  Representatives of Cargill, Baker and McKenzie, United Bank, Chemonics, and the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce provided a business perspective on their CSR efforts.  The group also met with a number of non-profit organizations, including Halcyon, Pyxera Global’s Center for Citizen Diplomacy, DC Central Kitchen, Conservation International and Business Volunteers Maryland.

The Ukrainian delegation attended a lively discussion on U.S.-Ukraine relations at the Atlantic Council. They also had a briefing from Professor Jim Quirk (American University) on the U.S. political system and met with Legislative Director Mike Lucier of Rep. Jennifer Wexton’s (D-VA) office.  As part of directly experiencing American life, during their visit the delegates lived with host families in Fairfax County, Virginia.

Public Diplomacy Delegation

The Ukrainian Open World public diplomacy delegation visits the European Union office in Washington.

How can Ukraine more effectively explain its policies to the global community?  What tools and strategies can be employed to enhance and promote Ukraine’s image abroad? How can Ukrainians best showcase their achievements, stories and culture around the world? These and related questions were the focus of a Ukrainian public diplomacy delegation that visited Washington in November 2019 under the auspices of the Open World Leadership Center.

The members of the delegation were Volodymyr Riznichenko (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine), Olha Nakonechna and Tetiana Vasylenko (Hennadii Udovenko Diplomatic Academy of Ukraine), Iryna Prokofieva and Oleksandr Vynogradov (Ukrainian Institute), and Olena Kotsur (American Councils for International Education, Kyiv). Their trip was administered by the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation (USUF) in cooperation with American Councils.

The group held discussions regarding public diplomacy in the foreign policy and political realm with Nicholas Kazvini-Gore (Rep. Marcy Kaptur’s office), Nadia K. McConnell, Robert McConnell and Orest Deychakiwsky (USUF), Stacy Hope and Mark Toner (Helsinki Commission), Jonathan Katz and Sydney Simon (German Marshall Fund), and Martin Caudron (Delegation of the European Union to the United States). The Ukrainian visitors also met with Vivian Walker of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, U.S. State Department colleagues in the Office of Public Diplomacy and Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, as well as with former public diplomacy diplomats Tania Chomiak-Salvi and Mary Kruger.

The Ukrainian delegates also had meetings with Samantha Peterson and Susan Cleary of the Office of International Relations of the Smithsonian Institution and with Kevin Blossfeld of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers Alliance for Ukraine – during which opportunities for future collaboration were discussed.  Stanislav Khristenko, renown classical pianist and artistic director of the Kharkiv Music Fest talked about the challenges of promoting Ukrainian classical music and musicians internationally.  Professor Jennifer Brinkerhoff (George Washington University) described her research regarding the creation of an “enabling environment” for diaspora participation in native homeland development.

At the invitation of Professor Jim Quirk, the Ukrainian delegation spoke to an engaging audience of about 100 students and faculty members at American University. The group also met with journalists of the Voice of America’s Ukrainian Service.

Visits to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Newseum, the Hirshhorn Museum, the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Gallery of Art provided the public diplomacy delegation with new insights for presenting Ukrainian history, culture and arts.

The program concluded on November 22nd with a ceremony at the Embassy of Ukraine in Georgetown hosted by Charge d’Affaires Andrii Yanevskyi and other diplomats, including Yaroslav Brisiuck, Vladyslava Bondarenko and Natalia Solyeva.

It’s also worth noting that VOA’s Ukrainian Service conducted an  interview with Iryna Prokofieva, Head of the Programming Department of the Ukrainian Institute.

Renewable Energy Delegation

Grant Olear of the U.S. Green Building Council describes various environmentally friendly features of his organization’s office space to an Open World renewable energy delegation from Ukraine. (Credit: Adrian Karmazyn).

Ukrainian members of an Open World Leadership Center delegation of energy researchers, policy advocates, and municipal government representatives visited Washington in March 2019 to learn about the renewable energy sector in the United States.  The group had meetings on Capitol Hill and at the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, the Institute for Market Transformation, 38 North Solutions, Oil Change International, the U.S. Green Building Council,  the Solar Energy Industries Association and other organizations.

The delegates from Ukraine were: Andrii Nazarenko (Senior Scientific Worker, Institute of Engineering Thermophysics, National Academy of Science of Ukraine), Anna Pastukh (Lawyer, Secretary of the Board, Public Union “Bioenergetic Association of Ukraine”), Maksym Tkachuk (Head of Finance & Budget Department, Berezdiv Village Council), Oleksandra Tryboi (Consultant, NGO “Renewable Energy Agency”), Vitalii Zubenko (Scientific Worker, Institute of Engineering Thermophysics), National Academy of Science of Ukraine) and Veronika Gryshchenko (Open World Program Coordinator, American Councils for International Education).

Countering Disinformation Delegation

The Open World media delegation from Ukraine focusing on countering disinformation visits the headquarters of National Public Radio in Washington.

A delegation of Ukrainian media professionals spent a week in Washington learning about the American perspective on “Countering False Information and Media Literacy.”  The Septermber 2017 visit was sponsored by the Open World Leadership Center and the program was organized and implemented by the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation (USUF).  The members of the delegation were: Olena Churanova (StopFake.org), Mykhailo Makaruk (InformNapalm.org), Alina Pravdychenko (Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law), Petro Shuklinov (Liga.net), Vitaliy Syzov (Donetsk Institute of Information) and Tetiana Vorobiova (Facilitator, Open World). Adrian Karmazyn of USUF coordinated the program.

The media professionals from Ukraine participated in a series of meetings that were highly relevant to the challenges they face back home.  They met leading national journalists—Michele Kelemen (National Public Radio) and Cheryl Thompson (The Washington Post and George Washington University) who, respectively, discussed coverage of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and investigative corruption reporting.  They got a sampling of Ukraine-related issues on Capitol Hill by meeting with Senator Chris Van Hollen’s foreign affairs legislative assistant, Afreen Akhter, and attending a Friends of Ukraine Network briefing on assistance for Ukraine.   Issues of disinformation and fake news (particularly coming from Russia) were highlighted in discussions with Helsinki Commission staff and in a hearing on “The Scourge of Russian Disinformation,” as well as in discussing the Pulitzer Center’s media literacy programs.

The issue of the legal defense of journalists was addressed at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.  At the Kleptocracy Initiative they received an in-depth presentation about the relationship between authoritarian leaders and global corruption and how it is undermining American democracy.  The delegates found their visit to WAMU-FM intriguing in terms of the radio station’s financial and journalistic independence (based on listener support), the loyalty of its listeners, the prestige of the station and the large number of volunteers who contribute their time there. (Some in the group wondered if this model could be emulated in Ukraine).  During a discussion at Internews the delegates encouraged Western assistance providers to work with existing non-oligarch media in Ukraine that already have a significant audience rather than creating new outlets. The group also met with Amanda Bennett, the Director of the Voice of America, and with VOA’s Ukrainian Service, which interviewed Vitaliy Syzov.

The delegates considered their private meeting with Ambassador William Taylor to be one of the top events of the week. Another highlight was their visit to the Newseum–a museum devoted to the news media and freedom of the press. They also had the opportunity to attend a Ukrainian Independence reception at the U.S. Institute of Peace, the opening of the annual Ukrainian Festival at the St. Andrew Orthodox Cathedral grounds in Silver Spring, and to spend an afternoon touring the historic neighborhoods of Annapolis. During their week-long stay in the Washington area, the delegates lived with host families in Sandy Spring and Olney, Maryland.

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Photo at top of page:  The Corporate Social Responsibility delegation and USUF Vice President John Kun meet with Julie C. Kernan and Alissa Ganser of Business Volunteers Maryland in Baltimore. (Credit: Adrian Karmazyn).