PORTLAND, MAINE | On April 11, Maine Seeds joined the World Affairs Council (WAC) of Maine’s Summit on Citizen Diplomacy. The topic of this year’s summit was “Citizen Diplomacy through Education: Promoting Awareness, Networking, and Partnerships.” The event was a great opportunity for Seeds to share the work they do in the context of Seeds of Peace, and to network with other people invested in the field.
The Summit, which took place at the University of Southern Maine, was focused on four goals:
1. To increase awareness and understanding in Maine of citizen diplomacy and why it is important to individuals, institutions, and communities, as well as to increase understanding of education as an instrument of citizen diplomacy;
2. To generate enthusiasm for citizen diplomacy through education, thereby advancing global citizenship;
3. To build the capacity of Maine’s schools and international educational institutions to become more globally engaged, and to encourage partnerships, networking and cooperation among them; and
4. To showcase local initiatives in global education.
Seeds heard from the President of the World Affairs Council of Maine, Clifford Gilpin; from Harold Pachious, former Chairman of the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy; and from Ed Gragert, Director of the Global Campaign for Education in the U.S.
Also presenting were representatives two citizen diplomacy grassroots non-profit organizations, Africa School House and Safe Passage, who spoke about founding, organizing, and implementing grassroots non-profits in rural Tanzania and urban Guatemala.
For Seeds, the opportunity to hear about the challenges and successes within these organizations and to ask questions was exceptional.
The second part of the day was focused on citizen diplomacy specifically as it relates to youth and student exchange. Students learned about cultural exchange programs in Maine and how schools are working towards building global perspectives in their classrooms.
Lisa Cronin, a participant in the Seeds of Peace Educators Course, and a teacher at Dexter Regional High School where she uses technology to connect her students to classrooms around the world, also presented to the group. She spoke about how Seeds of Peace opened doors for her students to engage in citizen diplomacy, as they connect to other Seeds of Peace educators and their classrooms worldwide.
Maine Seeds Program Director Tim Wilson was invited to speak regarding local initiatives in global education. He addressed what Seeds of Peace means in the context of Maine and the local community issues Seeds deal with. Speaking proudly, he shared how he’s seen schools transform as Seeds became more actively involved in the community.
As they networked with professional citizen-to-citizen diplomacy practitioners, Seeds came away from the day was insight into how to engage with the world, not just learn about it.