Headshot of Marie Peoples

Marie Peoples, PhD, joined us to talk about the benefits she has gleaned from global exchange programs over the years.

How have global exchange experiences impacted your professional life?

Global exchanges provide first-hand opportunities to experience diverse cultures, customs, and ways of doing business, which strengthens cross-cultural competence. Our communities are comprised of people from all imaginable backgrounds. The power of cultural competence cannot be overlooked when delivering services to all residents.

When I reflect on the times that my community hosted an exchange, I realize I learned so much from those individuals, as did my team and other teams within my organization. There were projects and initiatives that our exchange participants had done that were forward thinking and creative. Their generosity of thought and willingness to share enhanced what we were attempting within our organization at the time. Beyond the professional knowledge shared, relationships are developed. I have continued many of these relationships throughout my professional career, and I know many of my colleagues have as well. International exchanges shine a light on the connectivity we all share as a global community.

Why are global exchanges and knowledge sharing so valuable to anyone in local government?

Communities around the world experience a lot of common issues, and expanding our network globally can help us better address those issues in our own communities. I recently participated in an exchange in Saudi Arabia, and while this community may seem vastly different from my own on the surface, everything I heard in their conference sessions and networking conversations is absolutely applicable to what I am experiencing in my community. We’re undertaking a comprehensive plan, and while in Saudi Arabia, we have covered many of the topics being considered in my community’s comprehensive plan — building space, placemaking, bringing intentionality and ground-level work to public engagement, and so forth. These types of exchanges teach you that everything is transferable and applicable if you can be open-minded.

What advice can you give other local government professionals who may be interested in participating in a global exchange?

Just do it. While that advice may sound simple, it’s the best way to approach it. The exchanges facilitated by ICMA are well executed, making the learning opportunities completely priceless. The planned experiences and programming teach you a lot, but the things that happen during meals, on walks in between, and when you’re networking with people are just as important.

And the networks you build while on these exchanges last forever. I still keep in contact and share information with individuals from my Indonesian exchange over 10 years ago. As the adage goes, “there is no need to recreate the wheel,” and we don’t just have to borrow from our immediate neighbors. Expanding our network on a global scale is so important.  

What are your hopes for ICMA’s next 100 years of global work?

Thinking about where we are today globally, and as an American, there is a lot going on in the world. While we are so connected, more connected than we probably ever have been because of technology, we’re disconnected and polarized on many issues.

ICMA, from my perspective, has been and still is perfectly positioned to be a leader in the space of fostering connections. I hope that ICMA will continue bringing together an eclectic group of people to learn from each other, honor each other, understand what we’re doing in our communities, and demonstrate how that shared knowledge is transferable to everybody else’s community.

Watch Marie’s full interview and learn more about ICMA’s global journey by viewing the ICMA Global playlist on YouTube.

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