Intent on a better future, local leaders began fostering Atlanta’s reputation as a “city too busy to hate,” and turned their aspirations to creating something much bigger than a sleepy Southern town besieged by racial strife.
So began their efforts to make Atlanta a true international city, by embracing transatlantic relationships and business long before many other cities had even considered the global arena.At that same time, a new organization was formed in Atlanta called the Georgia Council for International Visitors (www.gciv.org).
Its mission 50 years ago is the same today — to create valuable international experiences and opportunities for the people of Georgia and emerging leaders around the world.Simply translated, that means building international connectivity through person-to-person relationships, one handshake at a time.
As a nonprofit, the council strives to provide meaningful exchanges that open new dialogues, foster unique educational opportunities and create a network of emerging global leaders dedicated to affecting positive change in their home countries.
Through its programs, the council welcomes more than 500 emerging leaders from more than 100 countries each year. Over the course of six decades, more than 360 program participants have gone on to become presidents or prime ministers of their countries, including France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, India’s Manmohan Singh and Mexico’s Felipe Calderon.
The council plays an instrumental role in supporting American foreign policy goals through its management of the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program here in Georgia. The program brings some 5,000 professionals from all over the world to America to meet with professional counterparts across a host of industries and sectors, from government and business, to education and the arts.
As a supporter of the council, Invesco has hosted economic experts from four Caribbean nations, as well as financial analysts from Italy. During these visits, we showcased best practices that matched the professional interests of our distinguished guests. We believe that the relationships started on these visits will result in opportunities that keep Atlanta at the forefront of global competition.
The experiences the council offers to foreign visitors are truly unique and powerful, in part because they provide a way to learn first-hand how business and culture really operate in America. Through a network of “citizen diplomats,” the council organizes home visits and exchanges that bring visitors into typical American homes and foster lasting connections and friendships.
My own family has hosted visitors at our dinner table from the United Kingdom, Denmark, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Germany, Malaysia and Paraguay. Multiply those visits by the thousands facilitated annually by the council and you’ll begin to understand the integral role they play in supporting Atlanta’s international vision and also how much our city has grown in stature and importance on the global stage.
That Atlanta is poised to do well in a world where communications, business and opportunities are global in nature is in no small part due to the relationships started and nurtured by the council.
As it celebrates its 50th anniversary, I urge you to learn more about the organization and how you can become a citizen diplomat, helping our city in its strategy and goal to remain a global leader.
Lindsay Davidson is the Georgia Council for International Visitors’ board chair and managing director for global equity at Invesco Global Asset Management. He can be reached at Lindsay.Davidson@invesco.com.