In late August 2023, FLEX, YES, and YES Abroad alumni embarked on the 2023 Global Village on the Move program, which brought together 90 alumni participants from diverse backgrounds and cultures, highlighting the power of international collaboration in addressing global challenges. The program was implemented by American Councils for International Education and the Iacocca Institute at Lehigh University, and was funded by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.  

Participants began their leadership journey in a unique virtual community, working in a cross-cultural and geographically diverse team on a seven-week consulting project with an international client from August 28 through October 13. Participants also developed a personal leadership action plan through CliftonStrengths leadership assessments and coaching workshops.  

In November, participants convened in person in Istanbul, Türkiye, to explore solutions to three crucial UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Zero Hunger, Clean Energy, and Gender Equality. The heart of the in-person workshop was the SDG Design Challenge, where participants delved into their chosen SDG, crafting innovative solutions to complex issues for a sample set of countries. Guided by alumni mentors and facilitators, each group presented their solutions to a panel of judges, sparking insightful discussions and constructive feedback. 

Throughout the program, participants had the opportunity to learn from and interact with speakers and experts, including representatives from the United Nations and local organizations dedicated to SDG-related initiatives.  

Educational activities and site visits further enriched the experience. From a “globalization scavenger hunt” in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet neighborhood to visits to sustainable companies and non-profit organizations, participants gained firsthand exposure to real-world solutions to challenges. 

The visit to Türkiye’nin Otomobili Girişim Grubu (Togg), Türkiye’s electric car company, stands out as a highlight, as well as a trip to Hayata Sarıl Lokantası (which translates to “Embrace Life Restaurant”), a restaurant that helps people experiencing homelessness and food insecurity in Istanbul. Founder Ayşe Tükrükçü spoke to participants about her life, inspiration for opening the restaurant, and future plans to scale up the impact she’s making in her community. Participants also paid visits to other impactful initiatives like the Kasimpasa Upcycling Center and the Ilk Adim Women’s Cooperative that showcased the transformative power of grassroots, community-driven enterprises.  

By the end of the program, participants were equipped with practical tools and insights to drive change. A grassroots project design exercise and information on grant opportunities further empowered them to turn their ideas into action. 

This border-transcending alumni opportunity is inspiring positive transformation worldwide, bringing us one step closer to a more sustainable and equitable world. 

Want to learn even more about Global Village on the Move? Check out this article on Lehigh University’s website.  

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