Fellowship at Ventureprise, Charlotte, NC

written by Rabia Tas from Turkey

I’ve been working at a technology transfer office and wanted my professional fellowship to be in the fields of technology transfer, entrepreneurship, research, and innovation. Therefore; my placement to Ventureprise which is the entrepreneurship and innovation center at the University of North Carolina Charlotte is a really good match. I’ve been participating in various events and meetings since I started my fellowship.

I’ve been a part of different activities such as learning about the programs of Ventureprise, having meetings with UNC Charlotte offices like Office of Technology Transfer and Proposal Development Office, joining workshops and seminars on business model canvas and career building. Some of the things that I’ve seen are quite similar to the models we use at my own institution, but there are some models or tools that we don’t use frequently. Therefore; seeing them here and making observations give me the inspiration to start new programs or practices once I return home.

Ventureprise provides me a good networking opportunity both in UNC Charlotte and in Charlotte city in terms of my areas of interest. But there was such a nice coincidence here at Ventureprise that it helped me not only to make new acquaintances from Charlotte but also to 7 different entrepreneurs from different European countries. Ventureprise was hosting European entrepreneurs for U.S. Department of State’s 2018 Young Transatlantic Innovative Leaders Initiative and I had a chance to meet the 7 participants of that program here in Charlotte. They were all founders of startups from the Netherlands, Hungary, Spain, Ukraine, Italy, Norway and the United Kingdom. I joined in some events together with them and even participated in their pitching event. This global networking was a good surprise and opportunity for me. Because I talked to them and learn about technology development and innovation ecosystems in their countries as well as sharing my knowledge on Turkish innovation ecosystem. I helped one of the entrepreneur to contact with a potential partner in Turkey and created a draft Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership proposal about entrepreneurship with another.

I’ve come here to cooperate and collaborate with US institutions and entrepreneurial ecosystem and ended up with developing a global network with fellows from Eurasia Professional Fellowship Program, from Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative and from Young Transatlantic Innovative Leaders Initiative. This opportunity will be among the most memorable experiences of my fellowship.

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Celebration of Diversity

written by Nataliia Zaitseva from Ukraineoak

From the very first orientation meeting in DC I understood how different all the fellows are. 68 totally different fellows from different countries came to the US to learn about best practices of governance, business and education. Ethnic diversity is one of the main aspects which differs the US from my native country Ukraine.

Every year US Government gives around 50,000 green cards for immigrants who decided to live and work in the US.

I was happy to see the unique ceremony in Macomb County, Mount Clemens, MI on November 2, where I was a fellow at the Macomb County Executive`s Office. It is called the naturalization ceremony.

The naturalization ceremony created to recognize the rights, responsibilities, and importance of citizenship and provide access to services for new citizens. It is the culmination of the naturalization process.

Each year a group of people from the Macomb community become naturalized and get their American citizenship. Macomb County executives try to make administrative naturalization ceremonies positive and memorable moments in the lives of the citizens.

The first naturalization ceremony in Macomb County was held in 2014 and now is annual. Most of naturalized citizens came from Middle Eastern Countries.

This year 24 individuals from 16 different countries including: Albania, Bangladesh, China, Croatia, Germany, India, Iraq, Jordan, Korea, Lebanon, Liberia, Peru, Poland, South Korea, Tunisia and Yemen become naturalized. During ceremony immigrants become U.S. citizens by taking the Oath of Allegiance. For some of them the whole process lasted for 6 years.

Pam Lavers, Deputy County Executive, started with remarks and mentioned that Macomb County is a multicultural community and new citizens are highly welcomed to participate in the community life.

County Executive Mark A. Hackel in his remarks highlighted that diversity of Macomb County is incredible and it is very important for county authorities to enlarge the population, so Macomb is open for all!

After remarks, a keynote speaker, Inge Zomboreanu Boettcher, a Macomb County Community Mental Health employee that shared her own citizenship story. She went from Romania in 1990 and was naturalized in 1996. She pointed that they didn’t have such ceremony and it is a great idea to host the ceremony in Macomb county.

Following Inge’s story, the ceremony proceeded to the Oath of Allegiance led by the Honorable Judge George Caram Steeh from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Multicultural diversity is an integral part of American life. Participating in the naturalization ceremony was a unique experience which I never seen before.

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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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.