In preparation for the New Year, why not resolve to plan your next event on an international level? In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower created an organization dedicated to citizen diplomacy called Sister Cities International. A half-century later, his vision continues via the U.S.-based association that pairs more than 600 American cities with “sister” cities from 136 countries.
“The Sister Cities program is a perfect avenue to work with people abroad if you’re tasked with coordinating an international conference or convention or simply want to host an event in a unique location,” says Megha Swamy, communications manager for SCI. “You can leverage existing relationships with representatives of your sister city to help accomplish what you need in terms of on-the-ground assistance.” Planners based in large cities have the added advantage of being able to work with more than one sister city.
Mark Chandler, director of international trade and commerce for the city of San Francisco, heads up his city’s Sister Cities program. “The value of utilizing the Sister Cities program is that there’s already a direct connection,” says Chandler. “For instance, if your group or company traveled from San Francisco to Osaka, Taipei or Shanghai—all of which are sister cities to us—you’d receive special treatment. It’s an elevated status that’s already in place. The value is that coming from a U.S. city and traveling to your sister city will help open doors that might not normally be available, and there are volunteer citizen committees in all of these sister cities who will literally roll out the red carpet for you.”