A Valuable Reason to Travel: Furthering PFP Linkages

written by Kevin Moore from the United States

I’m a big believer in efficiency, and an even bigger believer in the Professional Fellows Program. Immediately following the productive and eye-opening experience of participating in Turkish PFP Fellow Asli Gemci’s outbound project on public participation in policymaking in Istanbul (as well as reconnecting with PFP alums Özge Sonmez and Ece Karakus while there), I embarked on personal travel to Tbilisi and Chisinau in follow-up with previous Fellows who I’ve had the pleasure of hosting.

Tamari Gvasso continues her work on criminal justice reform in Georgia. It was fascinating to learn more about her capacity at an NGO that advises policymakers. In addition, Tamari and I enjoyed catching up with Teona Surmava, another Oregon PFP alum who is a leading force for law enforcement modernization in her home country. Business aside, Tamari and Teona introduced me to culture, sights and cuisine of Georgia during my 5-day visit.

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In Moldova, Mariana Buruiana now works for the civil society organization, East Europe Foundation. I really enjoyed learning about her work on youth empowerment. This was actually my fourth visit to Moldova, the first being for implementation of Mariana’s 2013 outbound project. Business aside, Mariana hosted me for a wonderful traditional barbecue at her home outside of Chisinau, then together with her husband and cousin, we road-tripped to Romania from where I ultimately flew home via Bucharest.

Having been home less than a week, I’m still processing this amazing journey that included meaningful engagements with six PFP alums, past and present. The Professional Fellows Program and American Councils truly facilitates cross-jurisdictional learning and understanding. I look forward to continued partnership.

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Civil Society in Turkey: Tact and Collaboration

written by Kevin Moore from the United States

It was a whirlwind second week of Asli Gemci’s and my outbound project in Istanbul. Asli arranged meetings for me with seasoned members of Turkey’s civil society to discuss effective strategies for engaging policymakers. I was fascinated to learn about unique approaches taken by NGOs here, and also to offer some best-practices from Oregon. My biggest takeaway was that following June 24 elections, the landscape for civic engagement in Turkey is in transformation as the government takes on a new structure with a strong, American-style presidency. These meetings with civil society prepared me for our culminating event: a two-day conference on public participation in decision-making organized by Asli as part of our outbound project.

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Thursday and Friday saw our more than 75 participating professionals from regional civil society and government — Turkey, the Western Balkans, the Caucuses and the U.K. — gather to hear from experts and share ideas about citizen inclusion: its current status and ideas for advancing civil society’s role in the process. I was invited to present about Orgon’s model and to lead a group session to discuss mechanisms for effective engagement. I was impressed by the number and quality of questions asked and the passion of everyone in attendance. When the conference concluded on Friday, I had developed numerous relationships for continuing collaboration.

In addition to our meeting schedule, Asli furthered my cultural experience: We took a ferry to the Prince’s Islands off Istanbul’s coast, visiting ancient monasteries and enjoying mezza. I’ve loved exploring Istanbul’s Old City, becoming a regular at a small breakfast cafe and local barber. Even at the conference, Asli arranged a traditional meal and classical Turkish live music for our joint working dinner.

As if all that wasn’t enough, it’s also been great for me to connect with PFP alums Özge Sonmez and Ece Karakus in Istanbul. Özge, who works for an NGO assisting Syrian refugees in Turkey, treated me to a wonderful meal and updated me on her organization’s work. Ece, who works in the national parliament, invited me to a traditional Turkish wedding overlooking the Bosphorus. Along with so many experiences here — both professional and personal — it’s something I won’t soon forget!

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Four days, four meetings, two cities, a presentation and lots of culture: Recipe for a successful start to an Outbound Project in Turkey!

written by Kevin Moore, Chief of Staff, Senator Floyd Prozanski, Oregon Senate

It’s my genuine pleasure to participate in Asli Gemci’s outbound project on pubic engagement in policy-making with a focus on environmental impact assessments. After a wonderful welcome dinner in Istanbul’s Old City and good rest Monday night, we hit the ground running on Tuesday. Asli familiarized me with her office and colleagues at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). She also delivered a presentation on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and how WWF’s work aligns with those goals, providing fantastic context for our collaboration. I then had the pleasure of joining Asli and WWF’s Turkey director for lunch, where we discussed, among other topics, how innovative programs from Oregon may benefit Turkey’s efforts toward zero-waste and recycling. Monday ended with a ferry ride across the Bosphorus.

The next day, Asli and I traveled to Ankara, the country’s capitol, for meetings at the Grand National Assembly (GNA) and the U.S. Embassy. As a longtime legislative chief of staff, it was fascinating for me to converse with a counterpart in Turkey’s parliament, sharing our assemblies’ public participation processes, citizen engagement practices, and our personal experiences. After a private tour of the GNA (pictured), a portion of which remains damaged after the 2016 coup attempt, Asli and I hustled over to the U.S. Embassy for a meeting with Saad Bokhari, Deputy Cultural Affairs Officer, and his colleague, Ayşegül Taşkın for a robust conversation about our experiences with the PFP program and strengthening civil society in Turkey.

Wednesday ended and Thursday started with wonderful meals and the company of Asli’s parents. They were gracious enough to welcome me into their home and to extend invitations for future visits; I now feel like I have family in Turkey! Following breakfast, Asli and I enjoyed a productive, hour-long meeting at the Ministry of Environment & Urbanization. We compared in-depth our jurisdictions’ environmental impact assessment (EIA) models and shared ideas for enhancement and future discussion. I was particularly impressed by the online application and review process that the ministry uses for EIAs. Our meeting was so engaging, we forgot to snap a group photo!

Our time in Ankara also included visits to the Anıtkabir, a sprawling and impressive mausoleum-museum for Atatürk, and to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations. We concluded the visit at a cafe atop an ancient citadel, watching a thunderstorm pass over the city. Our meetings have been highly productive; the culture, food and authentic experiences that Asli has introduced me to — equally fulfilling. I am incredibly grateful to her and to American Councils for facilitating this project, and I can’t wait for the nine days ahead!

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PFP Experience at MassChallenge

written by Olivia Seow from Singapore

Headquartered in the United States and with locations in Boston, Israel, Mexico, Switzerland, Texas, and the UK, MassChallenge strengthens the global innovation ecosystem by accelerating high-potential startups across all industries, from anywhere in the world for zero-equity taken. As MassChallenge’s flagship location, MassChallenge Boston brings together corporates, policy makers, and innovation leaders to support and inspire the next generation of innovators. In total, it has accelerated over 1,000 startups from across the world, creating over 80,000 jobs.

I was given the privileged opportunity to support Round 2 judging for the 2018 batch of MassChallenge Boston startups. From an original applicant pool of 1,600, 350+ startups pitched at MassChallenge Boston for Round 2 judging, and 128 finalists were eventually accepted into MassChallenge Boston’s 2018 accelerator program. Over 6 consecutive days, I arrived in the office at around 7am and supported various elements of Round 2 judging. I am grateful to have been given this unique chance to meet with passionate founders from all over the world. For instance, one startup from Hawaii created agricultural robots, which could support many on the path to self-sustainability!

Looking back, I am deeply inspired by how MassChallenge teams from across all

olivia rockstar awarddepartments pitched in to support this critical event. Despite the long days, the company’s collective drive to support startups is evident in the team’s dedication and cheerful, tireless attitude. Another excellent attribute of MassChallenge’s culture is the strong support by co-workers and even upper management. At the end of the event, the organising team distributed awards to acknowledge good efforts. I was pleasantly surprised to have been given a ‘Rockstar Award’, despite my short stint at the company.

It is bittersweet that my fellowship is coming to an end. I will be returning to Singapore inspired by my experiences, and hope to maintain strong ties with the connections forged in the past month.

San Diego: Life. Changing.

written by Anastasiia Lepuha from Ukraine

Beautiful and sunny city in California with 1.37 million of residents. It is the 8th largest city in United States and fast growing high-tech hub. I had a unique chance to discover San Diego from different prospective cultural, urban, economical, self-governmental. But the most important part of this experience is people such as my host mom, co-workers, innovators, neighbors, taxi drivers, bus passengers, just some people in the cafes, on the streets, volunteers. They were sharing their insights, thoughts, ideas and personal experience of living in San Diego. And here are some fascinating points.

I was working at newly established co-working and collaborative space for veterans in San Diego M-WERX. The issue of former military servants’ integration is very important for San Diego community development. That is why here are a lot of NGOs, programs, startups which are providing with support, help and assistance for veterans. Veterans-entrepreneurs are a part of business eco-system in San Diego and a part of social entrepreneurship environment. It was interesting to work with former marines, to understand their challenges and to share innovative cases of business development from Ukraine.

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City hall budget hearings are one of the most important events in San Diego. Just once per year citizens have a chance to share their ideas, to point out at some key budget lines and to ask for additional money for city development projects. The process was without any strikes, arguments or other misunderstandings in a respectful manner. Citizens are not just asking for money, but demonstrating their active position and community engagement. Community Budget Alliance (representatives of different NGOs) organized workshop for citizens about city budget for better understanding the process and highlighted the importance of advocacy in prioritizing city budget expenses.

Cultural diversity. Because of San Diego’s proximity to Mexico, you can hear Spanish

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language almost everywhere in the buses (2 languages for stops announcement), during City hall meetings, cafes’ menus are in Spanish etc. But not only Spanish culture is a part of San Diego diversity. I had an unforgettable opportunity to visit with my host mom 3 different theatres with amazing plays about Jewish history, life of Muslim family during Afghan war, Las Madres social movement in Argentina. Different cultures, religions and stories of simple people with so deep senses. The San Diego citizens are exploring this diversity, trying to understand the history and feelings. It was really impressive for me.

These insights are a small part of life-changing San Diego, multicultural city with the

mission to serve effectively and support their communities.

Dreams Become True

written by Leyla Aliyeva from Azerbaijan

The first time when I received an email from American Councils about my replacement I had tears because of happiness. I got information that I am going to work in Massachusetts State House. Yes, Massachusetts (MA). Now I will tell you the story about why I was so happy about being replaced in this fantastic state. For many years (since 2006) I had a dream of coming to Massachusetts and visiting Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). You could ask me why MIT? Ok, there is a good reason behind it.

As I started studying IT in 2006 in Azerbaijan, I got to know about a world-known mathematician, computer scientist, electrical engineer, artificial intelligence researcher and professor who I could say “changed our world and made it easier for us.” His name is Lotfi Zadeh who was born in Azerbaijan and always considered himself “a world citizen” not only by his words and also by his work. In 1944, Zadeh entered and received his MS degree in electrical engineering from MIT, and in 1965 he proposed a new theory of fuzzy logic. I am not going to explain the details of this theory as it is too broad and full of mathematics 🙂 But I will briefly tell why this theory changed the world.

Hence, thanks to this theory and logic now we have washing machines that know when and how to do what. Or our air conditioners know when to stop making our room fresh/cold/warm and when to start to work again. Besides, almost all the equipment including dish washers, cars, engines, cameras, computers, medical devices, etc. we use in our real life, work by fuzzy logic.

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On the other hand, Massachusetts was always the heart of technology and center of education for me and many people who know more about this state. Finally, after 12 years I got an opportunity to come and see this fantastic state and visit MIT.

In my second week in State House, I presented on the topic of “Cybersecurity in Azerbaijan” to the representatives of House and professors from Bay Path University including president of the University. Thanks to this event which was organized by my office I had a chance to make a network with professionals in the field of cybersecurity and got an invitation to visit Bay Path University which was one of the best opportunities for me. During the visit to Bay Path University I met the President, Dean and two professors of the university and had a very productive conversation on the topic of “Women in Cyber Security”. Besides I had an interview for a news TV program and some newspapers in Springfield.

 

I also had a chance to learn more about American culture and life thanks to my host family. The best thing I love about American culture is to see people reading books almost everywhere including public transportation, which is excellent feedback about the society and level of education.

Finally, dreams become true, and I am sure these six weeks gave me many chances to improve myself in my career and personal life, to achieve my goals. This was the best opportunity – internship and culture experience I have ever had.

Volunteer Work as Part of Community Service in San Diego

written by Akmal Sabaruddin from Malaysia

During my stay in San Diego, I had the opportunity to volunteer in the food redistribution program – feeding the hungry. This is a weekly (every Thursday) event and organized by Dharma Bum Temple, 4144 Campus Ave, San Diego. We gather to prepare peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and carry it directly to those who are hungry especially to those who are living on the streets of downtown San Diego. From this activity, I have learnt about being generous and taking care of others that are in need. Practicing generosity means to give our time, energy and resources to help others without judgement. Generosity is the first of the Six Paramitas and is practiced to remove the conditions that lead to greed, which causes our suffering. I love this activity and I did it twice on 10th May and 17th May 2018. There were 2 other fellows, Midha Karim from Indonesia and Anastasiia from Ukraine joining this activity.

San Diego Fellows Volunteering

Other than the food redistribution activity, I had the opportunity to volunteer in beach cleaning activity too. The event was held in Imperial Beach on Saturday, May 19, 2018 from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM and organized by I Love a Clean San Diego (ILACSD) and City of Imperial Beach Council. Volunteers are met at the corner of 13th Street and Imperial Beach Blvd for briefing and equipment distribution like buckets, garbage plastic, thongs and gloves. Snacks and waters were also provided by the organizer too. All volunteers are required to fill out a waiver form to participate and anyone under the age of 18 needs a waiver signed by their parent or guardian. It was a great event with a mission to have a zero waste, litter free and environmentally engaged San Diego region. Two other fellows were also involved in this activity: Midha Karim from Indonesia and Sirasar Boonma from Thailand.

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