Working for Congress
The Open World Leadership Center is the first and only international exchange agency in the U.S. Legislative Branch. Congress established the Center in 2000 to administer the Open World program, which to date has hosted short-term professional visits across the United States for more than 20,000 current and future leaders from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus , Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Moldova, Mongolia, Russia, Serbia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. Many of these leaders are themselves legislators or legislative staff on the federal, regional, or local level.
Congressional support for Open World has enabled leaders from countries without a history of representative democracy and independent legislatures to observe these aspects of American government firsthand. Most Open World delegations begin their U.S. visit in Washington, DC, where they often meet with Members of Congress and Congressional aides to discuss the legislative process, constituent relations, and topics related to the specific theme of the delegation’s exchange. These meetings reinforce one of the key messages that Open World exchanges seek to convey, which is that elected officials and their staff can and should be accessible to the public. And Congressional offices in turn get valuable exposure to young leaders who will shape the political and social development of their home countries. Open World also brings together delegates with staff of Congressional organizations such as the Helsinki Commission, the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus, allowing both sides to discuss their concerns and priorities.
While some Open World exchanges—especially those for parliamentary members and staff—have a specifically legislative focus, others have themes of Congressional interest and transnational impact, such as human-trafficking prevention, nuclear nonproliferation , and asset forfeiture.
Regardless of their assigned theme, virtually all Open World exchanges have a legislative component in the host community. Delegations often visit Congressional district offices to explore constituent services, and Congressional staff members frequently serve as panelists for group discussions on government’s role in the delegation’s theme area. Open World delegates also observe proceedings in state legislatures and city councils; learn about the legislative functions of county governments; or study legislative advocacy with NGOs.
The Open World Leadership Center is enormously grateful to the many Members of Congress and Congressional staff who have met with our delegates, and welcomes Congressional involvement in planning and carrying out programs.