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Photo collage featuring images from the IVLP Entrepreneurship Initiative. Photo credit: Todd Rose (top left, bottom left, and bottom right), Natasha Bonilla (top right), Marie-Paule McNeice (top middle and bottom middle)

Small businesses drive economic growth and prosperity all over the world. One approach to creating and growing a business is not a one-size-fits-all model that works in every country. Different business models are needed to support economic development to benefit local communities. The United States is home to over 30 million small businesses that provide services ranging from retail to grocery to woodwork to web developers to tailors and more. What better place to learn about how current and future social, economic, and political situations can play a role in ensuring local businesses thrive than in the U.S.? 
In August, over 100 entrepreneurs and innovators from 67 countries visited the U.S. for a two week program to learn about unique business models from public and private sector organizations in the U.S. The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) participants started their journey together in Washington D.C. and then broke into smaller groups to visit communities across the country.  The IVLP participants met with small business leaders and were able to take a closer look at how small businesses drive economic growth and prosperity and learn more about how different business models can be used to support economic development to benefit local communities.  
The program wrapped up in in Chicago, IL where all participants reunited to reflect on their experience in the U.S. and shared ideas they hoped to implement in their own communities back home. Juliana Siapai Edward Anikpara Dabira, a participant from South Sudan, said, “I am now empowered, I have resources at hand, I have people that I can speak to when I need help, I have new mentors – I believe this is what I needed in the beginning of my journey of entrepreneurship, but finding it in the middle is still a way forward.” 


Eurydice Tormal Gosngar, a participant from Chad, and Juliana Siapai Edward Anikpara Dabira, a participant from South Sudan, engage in a discussion following the initiative closing session. Photo Credit: Marie-Paule McNeice

The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) is the U.S. Department of State’s premier professional exchange program. ECA partnered with Meridian International Center and several Global Ties U.S. network organizations across the U.S. to make the “Entrepreneurship as the Engine of Prosperity and Stability” IVLP special initiative a reality.
The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the U.S. Department of State fosters mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries to promote friendly and peaceful relations. We accomplish this mission through academic, cultural, sports, and professional exchanges that engage youth, students, educators, artists, athletes, and rising leaders in the United States and more than 160 countries.


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