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Frequently Asked Questions

Question: When was the Open World Program established?

Answer: The Open World Program was established as a pilot project by the U.S. Congress in May 1999; the first delegations of Russian participants arrived in the United States in June of that year. Legislation extending the program for another year was passed in November 1999. During its two years as a pilot project, the program was known in the United States as the Russian Leadership Program (RLP); internationally it was referred to as the "Open World" Program. In December 2000, Congress authorized the creation of what is now the Open World Leadership Center at the Library of Congress to house the exchange. The Center was officially established on October 1, 2001. The exchange program the Center operates is now called the Open World Program.

Question: Isn't 10 days (the typical length of an Open World visit) too short a time?

Answer: By definition, Open World participants are leading governmental figures and civic activists; their schedules simply do not permit them to spend weeks or months at a time on overseas study trips. Though relatively short, Open World visits are intensive. During orientations in Moscow and Washington, D.C., participants receive a thorough overview of American political and social institutions and hold working meetings with high-level U.S. or state officials. After their U.S.-based orientation, participants travel to another American community for local programming, which includes on-site experiences, substantive meetings with government, civic, and business leaders, and cultural and community events.

Question: How does Open World's Russia program differ from other U.S. government exchange programs with Russia?

Answer: Open World's Russia program differs from other U.S. government exchange programs with Russia in its size and geographical scope (participants have come from all 85 Russian regions), its focus on young, up-and-coming political and civic leaders from all levels of government, its recruitment of non-English speaking, first-time visitors, its emphasis on hands-on, community-based programming, and its status as the only exchange program in the legislative branch.

Question: Who is the target audience for Open World exchanges? Who are hosts in the United States?

Answer: The Open World Program focuses on young political and civic leaders from all jurisdictional levels - federal, regional, and local - in the participating countries. Delegates have included members of parliament and their staff, mayors, judges, journalists, business managers, NGO directors, educators, and political party officials. The average age of participants is 38; half have been women. Civic participants are hosted by local members or partners of Open World's national hosting organizations, most of which are nonprofit, nongovernmental groups experienced in conducting foreign exchange programs.

In addition to arranging professional activities, the local host organizations provide most meals, cultural and community experiences, and, usually, homestays.

Question: I don't speak English, and not many Americans speak my language. Is this an obstacle?

Answer: Not at all; in fact, the Open World Program is designed for first-time visitors who do not speak English. Orientation materials, program agendas, and other important documents are provided in the participants' native language. The program pays for qualified interpreters to provide translation services during the professional portion of a delegation's daily program. In addition, each Open World delegation includes at least one "facilitator," a bilingual person (typically a graduate student or entry-level professional) who can assist the interpreter(s) and translate "after hours." Host families are provided in advance with information on a website that can translate English into participants' native language and vice versa.

Question: What happens when I return home?

Answer: Open World remains engaged with its alumni after they return home. Since 2003 the Open World Leadership Center has been conducting a new program entitled The Open World Alumni Outreach Program. It is being implemented in Russia by the not-for-profit organization Project Harmony, Inc. The Open World Alumni Outreach Program holds regional alumni conferences, professional development workshops, and IT seminars, publishes the quarterly Open World Alumni Bulletin and conducts distance learning courses. The Open World website http://www.openworld.gov) provides opportunities for alumni not only to get constantly updated information about the Open World Program and the Open World Alumni Outreach Program, but also to communicate with other Open World alumni as well as with American colleagues using the translation system of online forums.

Question: What is the role of the Library of Congress? The Open World Leadership Center? The U.S. Embassy? American Councils for International Education?

Answer: The Library of Congress served as the overall administrator of the Open World Program during the exchange's pilot phase.

The program is now managed by the Open World Leadership Center, a separate entity within the U.S. legislative branch. Although the Center is independent of the Library, it remains physically located there. The Center maintains an additional link to the Library through the Librarian of Congress, Dr. James H. Billington, who is ex officio a member of the Center's board of trustees and who serves as the board's chair.

The U.S. Embassy in each Open World country takes part in the candidate selection process, assists with program design and planning, and facilitates the processing of visas for program participants. Embassy officials also often hold functions for and meet with returned alumni.

American Councils for International Education, a nonprofit education, training, and consulting organization, provides administrative and logistical support to Open World on a contractual basis. American Councils staff in Washington, D.C., assist with planning, make participants' travel arrangements, and advise hosts on procedures and cross-cultural issues. In-country staff assist with forming and placing delegations, organize a predeparture orientation, and hire and train the English-speaking facilitators who accompany delegations.

Question: How can I participate?

Answer: According to the programs rules, candidates may not nominate themselves. Potential candidates must be nominated by one of the nominating organizations that work in partnership with Open World. Nominating organizations include many Russian, American, and international governmental and public organizations as well as Open World Alumni Clubs.

The criteria used for selecting nominating organizations are as follows: these organizations must be highly regarded both in Russia and internationally, have extensive experience in spheres relevant for Russian-American partnerships, be active in carrying out international projects, and be open for cooperation. Nominating organizations receive annual selection criteria for nominating candidates as well as information on the programs themes for the coming year.

Organizations interested in receiving additional information on nomination procedures are welcome to contact the Moscow office of the Open World Leadership Center of the Library of the U.S. Congress at openworld06@mail.ru or American Councils for International Education in Moscow at openworld@actr.ru.

Question: Who finances the Open World Program?

Answer: The program has been financed through Congressional appropriations, supplemented by private funds raised by the Center. Substantial in-kind support in the form of meals, housing, transportation, and cultural/recreational activities is provided by the program's partner hosting organizations.

Question: In 2003, the Open World Program expanded beyond Russia to Lithuania, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Why were these countries chosen?

Answer: In February 2003, the U.S. Congress passed legislation expanding eligibility for the Open World Program beyond Russia to the other former Soviet countries, including the Baltic states. Several factors influenced the selection of Open World's initial expansion countries. Open World's Board of Trustees wanted the new countries to represent the three regions of the former Soviet Union, i.e., Slavic, Baltic and Central Asian republics. The Board also believed that the selected countries should have obtained a certain level of political and economic influence in the region, and should have demonstrated potential to carry out democratic reforms. After analyzing the situation in the newly eligible countries according to the above-mentioned criteria, the Board of Trustees in May 2003 decided to start pilot programs in Lithuania, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.