Strengthening Minority Civil Society Organizations: A Project for the Republic of Kosovo

Culturally diverse societies require institutions that advance and protect the interests of minorities. In support of this principle, and in partnership with the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Meridian welcomed 10 Kosovar International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) participants to the United States for a project to examine the role of both government and civil society partners in supporting minorities across sectors. Not only do institutions in a country as diverse as the United States endeavor to promote access and inclusion to minority groups, but also preserve the cultural elements that make these groups unique. Achieving this balance is furthered through cooperation between academic institutions, non-profit organizations, businesses, and government partners: a balance which the program itinerary aimed to highlight.

IVLP participants visit the Rosa Parks Museum at Troy University in Montgomery, Alabama.

In Boulder, Colorado, visitors engaged with Promotores Verdes, a program of Americans for Conservation + the Arts (AFC+A) which advances healthy communities through environmental and cultural stewardship. Visitors experienced how the organization fosters the concepts of public health and environmental stewardship among low-income Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) communities to build awareness about the long-term health benefits of nature. With an emphasis on promoting cultural diversity, this visit to Colorado advanced the idea that when given minorities can protect their well-being and cultural heritage through community engagement.

In Montgomery, Alabama, participants had the opportunity to meet with many local human rights activists and were impressed by their commitment to bring change and improve the lives of local communities, shared through extraordinarily powerful and touching personal stories which resonated deeply with the visitors. Drawing on the civil rights movement, visits to Meetings with Alabama Appleseed Foundation and Alabama Arise demonstrated the ongoing commitment to legal and social equity for marginalized communities across the state. A visit to the Rosa Parks Museum also cemented the importance of museums as places of education and reflection for modern social justice activity.

In Boston, Massachusetts, participants met with the Roma Program at the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University to examine the role academic institutions play in advancing minority studies and amplifying the voices of minority leaders. Meetings also focused on ways to promote social cohesion, and the strengths and challenges of pluralism.

Upon reflection, IVLP participants found the program to be not only informative but both moving and meaningful in unanticipated ways. By hearing the testimonies of civil rights advocates and minoritized individuals in communities across the United States, participants were able to form deeper connections for future collaboration and resonate with certain aspects of mutual societal challenges.

Thank you to the Boulder Council for International Visitors, Global Ties Alabama, and WorldBoston for their partnership on this program.

Project summary

Strengthening Minority Civil Society Organizations: A Project for the Republic of Kosovo
Number of Visitors: 10
Regions: Europe and Eurasia
Countries: Republic of Kosovo
Impact Areas: Civic Engagement, Human and Civil Rights
Program Areas: Global Leadership