USAID's Approach to Diaspora Engagement
Diaspora communities have been forged worldwide as a result of international migration that has occurred both by choice and force. In the last 35 years, the number of worldwide international migrants has almost doubled, from 76 million to 150 million. As migration has increased, so has the level of engagement by these communities in their country of origin. In this regard, remittance flows have garnered significant attention as the second-largest source of financial resources to developing countries, just behind foreign direct investment (FDI). In fact, recorded remittance flows exceeded $325 billion worldwide in 2010 in spite of the global financial crisis. In some countries for instance remittances can be as high as 30% of GDP, which can have a profound impact on the country’s socio-economic development. However, diaspora communities do play a vibrant role in the development in their country of origin beyond remittances in the form of investments, volunteerism, information and knowledge transfer, tourism and trade to name a few. Recognizing this, USAID established a diaspora networks alliance (DNA) framework to guide the Agency's engagement with diaspora communities.
USAID Diaspora Engagement Mini-Series
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In 2009, USAID commissioned studies conducted by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) to analyze diaspora engagement in areas such as entrepreneurship, philanthropy, capital markets, nostalgic trade and tourism, volunteerism and advocacy. In November 2010, MPI released the six studies in a book titled "Diasporas: New Partners in Global Development policy". The USAID Diaspora Engagement Mini-Series was launched in May 2011 with the aim of delving into each of the six thematic areas in the book through monthly seminars. The seminars allowed USAID to engage with both diaspora communities and USAID missions and created a platform for future collaboration.
The Global Diaspora Forum 2012
The theme for the 2012 Global Diaspora Forum held in Washington, DC on July 25-26 was “Moving Forward by Giving Back.” The Forum focused on how new technology can empower and increase diaspora philanthropy, social entrepreneurship, volunteerism, and social innovation. Please click here to download short bios on each of the event’s plenary speakers or to listen to podcasts of selected panels. The Global Diaspora Forum is an annual celebration of America’s diaspora communities. The gathering challenged diaspora communities to forge partnerships with the private sector, civil society, and public institutions in order to make their engagements with their countries of origin or ancestry effective, scalable, and sustainable.
The event brought together a diverse range of stakeholders, all passionate about promoting diaspora engagement, including:
- Leaders of diaspora communities
- U.S. government officials
- Private sector stakeholders
- Representatives of international institutions
- Foundations executives
- Academic experts
- Members of nonprofit organizations
|Secretary Hillary R. Clinton | Opening Speech | Day 1
Dr. Rajiv Shah | Opening Speech | Day 2
Kris Balderston | U.S. Department of State
Breakout Sessions Audio Recordings
Social Entrepreneurship: Diaspora Change Makers
Diaspora communities are at the forefront of innovative problem-solving and are the most willing to take risks to empower and improve their country of origin. Join us as we discuss how diaspora-driven social entrepreneurship can be used to foster sustainable development in countries of origin.
Speakers: Anousheh Ansari (Prodea Systems), Iman Bibars (Ashoka), Cheryl Dorsey (Echoing Green), Fawzia Naqvi (Soros Economic Development Fund), Moderator: Roopal Shah, IndiCorps
Diaspora Apps: The Next Generation of Engagement
People are beginning to learn that a cause they are passionate about is likely shared by others as well. Join us as we discuss new ways to foster greater impact by pooling resources and knowledge to create sustainable partnerships that enable larger groups of people to contribute what they can to make a difference and increase diaspora philanthropy.
Speakers: Bef Ayenew (ArifSoft), Ravi Gundlapalli (MentorCloud), John Hecklinger (GlobalGiving), Antony Taylor (WellSpace), Moderator: Hoosheen Hashemi, The Hand Foundation
Diaspora Volunteerism: Serving Your Heritage
Over 60 million first and second generation Americans have strong roots in their countries of origin and want to know what they can do to help. Diasporas can provide technical advice and professional expertise, often have the linguistic and cultural familiarity that makes engagement more effective and trustworthy from the recipient’s vantage point, particularly in the most volatile regions, and diaspora volunteers can help counter the effects of “brain drain”. This session will explore different ways that organized volunteer programs can engage diaspora volunteers and provide perspective from diaspora volunteers who have undertaken projects in their countries of origin.
Speakers: Derek Evans (Cuso International), Natalie Grigorian (Birthright Armenia), Gregory Price (VolunteerMatch), Aelaf Worku (American International Health Alliance), Moderator: Micheal Deal, VEGA
Mobile Money: Implications for Engagement
The role of remittances is a backbone within diaspora communities and, to many developing economies, a backbone of the economy. Mobile technology and mobile money have the potential to lower costs and expand the ability of communities to transfer funds, support the growth of businesses and the thriving entrepreneurial spirit in their respective diaspora. This session will explore the growing number of services available to those interested in remitting funds through mobile technologies and the resulting business opportunities from these new payment methods.
Speakers: Bill Barhydt (Boom Financial), Conan French (Open Revolution), John Owens (Chemonics), Barbara Span (Western Union), Moderator: Nandini Harihareswara, Mobile Solutions USAID
Startup Diaspora: Unleashing A Transational Ecosystem
With so many new jobs in entrepreneurial economies coming from startups (firms less than five years old), it is not surprising that leaders around the world are looking to reinvigorate their economies by focusing on ways to stimulate startups. Diaspora entrepreneurs can play a pivot role in cultivating the innovation and startup ecosystems of their countries of origin.
Speakers: Claire Lee (Microsoft), Dilawar Syed (Yonja Media Group), Driss Temsamani (Maghreb Growth Foundation), Oltac Unsal (The World Bank Group), Moderator: Thomas Debass, Global Partnerships Initiative U.S. Department of State
Partnership Opportunities with Public Institutions
Building new programs and increasing your reach is difficult without proper funding. Join experts as they delve into new funding sources and explain how to apply for grants, undertake public-private partnerships, and share best practices for financing your diaspora community’s initiatives.
Speakers: Romi Bhatia (USAID), Jeff Brown (USAID), Aaron Sherinian (United Nations Foundation), James Thompson, Global Partnerships Initiative U.S. Department of State
Innovations to Affect Change
This panel will provide best practices in giving the diaspora a voice through online platforms and social media. The panelists will also describe ways that their organizations work to raise awareness about issues of interest to the diaspora and educate individuals on how they can contribute in a way that will be meaningful both for the diaspora community and their country of heritage.
Speakers: Aphrodite Boulikidis (Reinventing Greece Media Project), Katleen Felix (Haitain Hometown Associations Resource Group & Fonkoze), Molly Mattessich (Africa Rural Connect), Nicholas Reville (Amara), Moderator: Raul Hinogosa-Ojeda, North American Integration and Development Center at the University of California
The Global Diaspora Forum 2011
May 17, 2011 marked the launch of the inaugural Secretary’s Global Diaspora Forum. The three-day event was hosted jointly by the Department of State, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Migration Policy Institute. The Forum brought together US-based diasporas to recognize and celebrate the positive contributions of diaspora communities in fostering cross-cultural understanding and undertaking development initiatives in their countries of origin or ancestry. More than 350 leaders from diaspora communities across the world were on hand to discuss the role that diasporas can play in foreign policy and development efforts. The ultimate goal of the Forum was to encourage diaspora-centric public-private partnerships while cultivating learning and knowledge sharing among the various diaspora communities to go beyond cooperation and [be] about partnership.’