The Open World Leadership Center is a professional exchange program between the United States and the countries of Eurasia and the Baltic States that emphasizes hands-on, community-based collaborations that promote partnerships and continued communications between delegates and their American hosts and professional counterparts. Established by Congress in 1999 to enhance understanding and opportunities for cooperation between the United States and Russia, the Open World Leadership Center sponsors week-long professional exchange opportunities. In 2003, Congress made all post-Soviet states eligible for the program. Open World exchanges are designed to correspond with the participating delegates’ professional or civic work, exposing them to ideas and practices they can adapt to their own situations. Thanks to Open World, more than 18,300 current and future Eurasian leaders have experienced American society and have engaged in discussions on new ideas and practices that they can consider for use in their own work.
The Open World Leadership Center was an ideal avenue for Keystone’s international outreach. From 2005-2012, the Open World Leadership Center awarded Keystone grants to administer exchanges, and Keystone hosted several groups of human service leaders from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia, Perm, Vladimir, Yakutia, Novosibirsk, Pskov, and other regions across the Russian Federation, as well as Azerbaijan and Moldova. The visits focused on issues surrounding child welfare, elder care, autism, intellectual disabilities, community-based services, disability rights, special education and other health care issues.
To participate in the Open World exchanges, persons were nominated and the Open World Leadership Center makes the final selection of delegates. All travel, lodging and meal costs were provided by the Open World Program. Open World delegates were hosted in the homes of families associated with Keystone. Hosted home visits allowed Open World delegates to experience American family life. Delegates also took part in several cultural and community activities, including a day trip to New York City, a tour or production at the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts, a tour of the Pennsylvania Capital and other selected personal choices such as Hershey's Chocolate World or the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. Many delegates had the opportunity to meet with elected officials and professional counterparts during their visit.
Open World delegates were supported by experienced translators that accompany the delegation during the entire visit. Professional translation is important to ensure that knowledge and information is effectively shared between hosts and delegates.
While in the United States, Open World delegates had the opportunity to give a professional presentation on their work to the local community. These presentations helped build understanding and collaborations and share important knowledge and expertise.
The Open World delegations alloweded American counterparts to learn from participants who share expertise, knowledge and important cultural perspectives. Frequently, American colleagues had the opportunity to visit delegates in their home community and continue sharing knowledge, expertise and collaborations. Keystone worked to nominate Open World delegates who frequently were or would become partners in our international programs and initiatives.