The International Diaspora Alliance connects diaspora members with their home communities, leveraging the skills, financial power and connections of a global population to boost development in their countries of origin. The program helps them start businesses in their home countries, boosting development and creating international ties. By building and developing a network of leaders and mentees, IdEA gives changemakers opportunities to network, access funding and training opportunities, and make a meaningful contribution to their home communities.
Results & Impact
The initiative's Global Diaspora Week has engaged 15,000 participants in 30 events across 150 countries. Four leadership training courses included 40 participants of which 100% said training had improved their understanding of how to practise effective leadership.
US Department of State, US Agency for International Development, Calvert Foundation, Boom Foundation, Western Union Company, One Vietnam, the Hand Foundation, Inter-American Development Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development, New America Media, Mentorcloud, Scotiabank, Global Giving, Digicall, Overseas Private Development Corporation
Diaspora organisations and individuals join an online network with a range of benefits, such as inclusion on a global database of organisations, capacity building, training and networking opportunities, and an online mentoring programme. Members of diaspora communities are given support and encouragement to enact development and entrepreneurial activities in their own countries, through online webinars, funding opportunities and accelerator programs.
Cost & Value
In the most recent grant making cycle, a total of $300,000 was available
Running since 2011
Grantmaking to small, global organisations can demand a steep learning curve, as organisations have to conform to the requirements of the State Department administration procedures. This necessitates a comprehensive capacity building component for all participants of the program, and relatively high entry requirements for inclusion in grantmaking programs.
The United States has mobilised a global network of diaspora communities through the International Diaspora Engagement Alliance. The project, running since 2011, supports links between diaspora populations and their countries of origin, mobilising expertise, financial resources and connections to boost business, development and diplomacy around the world.
Both organisations and individuals can sign up to become members of the IdEA network, a status which brings a variety of benefits. They can participate in free capacity building training sessions, and receive and create specialised content on diaspora mobilisation, entrepreneurship and development through the IdEA website. Some $300,000 of grants have been made available through the program and members of the network can connect with diplomats and high level State Department figures for networking and advice, often online.
“This is a huge group, it’s hard to give them one label,” Ashwood Heffern, who manages the Diaspora Alliance from the Office of Global Partnerships, said. “It’s a massive undertaking but a very important one.”
The evolution of the network has been based on feedback from the community about what’s most effective. Webinars, where members of a diaspora can connect with each other and government members have proved especially popular, and cost efficient too. To date, 30 webinars have included 37 partners and racked up 3,914 recording views.
“We had to trim down and really focus on the things that moved the needle,” Heffern said. The IdEA team has added to the webinars with Twitter Q&As, allowing a two-way conversation between US government officials and business people in diaspora communities, and an informative web series broadcast from locations all over the world. The result of the initiatives is knowledge exchange, that’s beneficial for the State Department too. “It’s a very low cost but highly effective way to open up government, break that shield that sometimes people see and feel. Whether it be on a Facebook page or Twitter, there’s someone on the other end of that who addresses it and passes it up the line,” Heffern said.
Members’ organisations are also listed on the Diaspora Map, an interactive learning tool for those that work with diasporas. Freely accessible and fully searchable, it displays diaspora organisations from around the world with details of opportunities for work, areas of interest and ongoing projects.
IdEA is driven by USAID, the US Department of state and the Calvert Foundation. Its major implementing and strategic partners are drawn from the corporate, governmental and philanthropic sectors, and include Digicel, Mentorcloud, Western Union, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, ScotiaBank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.
The program’s work is centred around three key areas. Its supporting entrepreneurship stream encourages diaspora entrepreneurs to start businesses in their countries of origin. An innovation focus strengthens links between science, technology and business, and philanthropy and tourism is encouraged among diaspora and home communities. Central to the project is the development of adaptable tools that can be used by members of diaspora communities regardless of their specialism or country of origin, and schemes that target particular trades and global regions, too.
They include the African Diaspora Marketplace, Caribbean Diaspora Marketplace and La Idea, platforms that encourage US based diaspora members to create high-impact, sustainable businesses in their countries of origin. In the African Diaspora Marketplace fifteen to thirty awards are made, with grants between $10,000 and $50,000. A partnership with Western Union, in 2011 it funded seventeen businesses in fields including green energy, sustainable meat and heritage tourism.
More recently the program has created a Challenge Grant to fund diaspora groups working creatively with their networks on projects related to the sustainable development goals. “We think the diaspora are working on some incredible projects that we wanted to support,” Heffern says. “We really wanted to leverage something from these groups’ ability to leverage something from nothing.”
Working with these grassroots organisations means a lots of learning from both sides. “A lot of these groups had never worked with state before,” Heffern said. “Sometimes it feels difficult – it can feel like you’re drinking water through a firehose, there’s so much stuff”. Accommodating the new groups requires the organisers to set high requirements for proposals, while still identifying organisations that could do a lot with very little. One of the most successful projects to emerge from the grantmaking program is the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, which has saved lives by tackling exposure to smoke in cooking.
The IdEA project has also partnered with MicroMentor to provide ongoing online mentoring with diaspora members, focusing on entrepreneurship. Signing up to MicroMentor is a simple online process and, once logged in, members can easily connect with other individuals from the IdEA network to share skills and support.
In 2015, the initiative hosted a Global Diaspora Week that included over 90 events in 22 countries – the organisation’s biggest yet.