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Diaspora Engagement

USAID's Approach to Diaspora Engagement

Diaspora communities have been forged worldwide as a result of international migration that has occurred both by choice and force. In the last 35 years, the number of worldwide international migrants has almost doubled, from 76 million to 150 million. As migration has increased, so has the level of engagement by these communities in their country of origin. In this regard, remittance flows have garnered significant attention as the second-largest source of financial resources to developing countries, just behind foreign direct investment (FDI). In fact, recorded remittance flows exceeded $325 billion worldwide in 2010 in spite of the global financial crisis. In some countries for instance remittances can be as high as 30% of GDP, which can have a profound impact on the country’s socio-economic development. However, diaspora communities do play a vibrant role in the development in their country of origin beyond remittances in the form of investments, volunteerism, information and knowledge transfer, tourism and trade to name a few. Recognizing this, USAID established a diaspora networks alliance (DNA) framework to guide the Agency's engagement with diaspora communities.

USAID Diaspora Engagement Mini-Series

Click image to launch video

In 2009, USAID commissioned studies conducted by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) to analyze diaspora engagement in areas such as entrepreneurship, philanthropy, capital markets, nostalgic trade and tourism, volunteerism and advocacy. In November 2010, MPI released the six studies in a book titled "Diasporas: New Partners in Global Development policy". The USAID Diaspora Engagement Mini-Series was launched in May 2011 with the aim of delving into each of the six thematic areas in the book through monthly seminars. The seminars allowed USAID to engage with both diaspora communities and USAID missions and created a platform for future collaboration.

Seminar Screencasts

New Partners in Global Development

Mobilizing Diaspora Entrepreneurship for Development


Fostering Diaspora Investment in Developing Countries  

USAID Diaspora Engagement Mini-Series Screencast 1

USAID Diaspora Engagement Mini-Series Screencast 2


USAID Diaspora Engagement Mini-Series Screencast 3


Connected through Service: Diaspora Volunteers & Global Development


Heritage Tourism and Nostalgia Trade



Diaspora Philanthropy: Private Giving and Public Policy

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USAID Diaspora Engagement Mini-Series Screencast 5


USAID Diaspora Engagement Mini-Series Screencast 6


Voice After Exit: Diaspora Advocacy

USAID Diaspora Engagement Mini-Series Screencast 7

The Global Diaspora Forum 2013

The signature 2013 Global Diaspora Forum (GDF) in Washington, DC officially opened on Monday, May 13, 2013 at USAID headquarters and continued on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at the U.S. Department of State. Under the theme of “Where Ideas Meet Action” the 2013 Global Diaspora Forum provides the platform to discover inspiring stories from prominent diaspora figures in American popular culture, demonstrate exemplary initiatives in international development and diplomacy undertaken by diasporans of all generations, and showcase methods of organization and bridge-building that encourage next-generation diasporans to connect with their countries of heritage.

Following the unparalleled momentum and success of the 2011 and 2012 conferences, the third annual Global Diaspora Forum truly went global this year with simultaneously live streamed events from around the world. The 2013 Global Diaspora Forum brought together leaders in business, technology, investment and trade, government, and other prominent members of global diaspora communities as they uncovered new ways of collaborating around innovation, technology and youth-focused engagements. Multi-city satellite GDF conferences began on Friday, May 10th and continued through May 15th in the following cities:

  • Washington, DC
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • Toronto
  • Dublin
  • Academic experts
  • Silicon Valley
Video Introduction | Connie Tzioumis



Video Introduction | Dr. Maura O'Neill


2013 Global Diaspora Forum Live Stream Recording



Voices From the Forum

Key takeaways from forum participants & presenters

(Once your done viewing, click on PLAYLIST to view other videos)

Diaspora Forum Press Coverage

Press coverage from various world news outlets

(Once your done viewing, click on PLAYLIST to view other videos)

Recordings From The 2013 Global Diaspora Forum

Dr. Raj Shah, USAID Administrator

Dr. Maura O'Neill, USAID


Bill Barhyd, Gebisa Ejeta, Haleh Esfandiari, & Maura O'Neill

USAID Diaspora Engagement Mini-Series Screencast 1

USAID Diaspora Engagement Mini-Series Screencast 2


USAID Diaspora Engagement Mini-Series Screencast 3


African Diaspora Marketplace Global Diaspora Forum 2013 Video


Welcoming Remarks, Thomas Debass



Undersecretary of State Robert Hormats

USAID Diaspora Engagement Mini-Series Screencast 4

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USAID Diaspora Engagement Mini-Series Screencast 6


Forum Q&A Session: Michelle Kwan, Meb Keflezighi, James Ihedigbo, & Christine Brennan

USAID Diaspora Engagement Mini-Series Screencast 7

Breakout Sessions Audio Recordings

Day 2

The Action Showcase: Part I - Breakout Sessions

Group #1: Bringing Next Generation Diasporans into Action

Award-winning USA Today and ABC News sports columnist, Christine Brennan, holds a conversation with some of America’s most notable and celebrated diaspora athletes. Hear from the athletes themselves on their ties with their diaspora communities and how they translate a life in sport into a life of philanthropy and public service.

Moderator: Zeenat Rahman (U.S. State Department); Speakers: Michelle Kwan (Olympian & American Diplomat), Meb Keflezighi (Olympian & Philanthropist), & James Ihedigbo (HOPE Africa)

Group #2: Turning Investments (Big & Small) Into Action

Learn ways to catalyze diaspora investments of all sizes by using online investment portals and social media platforms that support socio-economic development in home countries.

Moderator: Ricardo Michel (USAID); Speakers: Eric Guichard (Homestrings), Guy Balan (Leopard Capital LP), & Katleen Felix (Kanpe Foundation)

Group #3: The Science Diasporas Lead the Action: From Campus to Society

The United States provides a successful model for implementing technology and innovation policies and programs that accelerate economic growth and enable its citizens to compete globally. Come learn about how U.S. diaspora scientists and engineers are at the forefront of the knowledge transfer, entrepreneurship and commercialization of ideas that can address challenges and spur economic growth in their countries of origin.

Moderator: Al Watkins (Global Innovation Summit); Speakers: Rohit Shukla (Larta Institute), Wole Soboyejo (Princeton University), & Lorena Barba (Boston University)

Group #4: The Innovation Showcase

Hear from the representatives of innovative and exemplary campaigns, initiatives and products that are aimed at informing the general public and engaging diaspora communities on critical issues in their communities and around the world.

Moderator: Raul Hinojosa (White House Champion of Change); Speakers: Aaron Sherinian (The United Nations Foundation), Khalid Fellahi (Western Union Digital Ventures), & Mike Love (Mozido LLC)

The Action Showcase: Part II - Breakout Sessions

Group #1: Grooming Next Generation Leadership

A discussion with the next generation of diaspora leaders on their success stories, lessons learned, and developing paths forward for engagement in their wider diaspora communities and back in their countries of origin. Find the best ways to effectively leverage their creativity, dynamism, and energy, particularly at the university and young professional levels.

Moderator: Semhar Araia (White House Champion of Change); Speakers: Aram Hamparian (ANCA) & Sophia Lafontant (Oxfam America)

Group #2: Diaspora Entrepreneurs in Action & Making a Difference

Learn how diaspora entrepreneurs are making an impact through innovative business startups in the US, their home countries and beyond.

Moderator: Stephen Keppel (Univision Communications Inc.); Speakers: Grace Kyokunda (InfoDev), Susan Amat (Launch Pad), & David Wanjiru (Pork Delights Ltd)


Group #3: Overcoming the D's of Diaspora Engagement

Seasoned diaspora leaders share their perspectives on the Distrust within Diaspora communities; the Dispersed nature of the Diaspora communities and the opportunities of programming with them; the Disparate nature of the Diaspora organizations and the opportunities of programming with them; and the Disorganized nature of the Diaspora communities and the role of federations and conveners. Case studies, program examples, and prescriptions will be shared with participants.

Moderator: Dr. Rockfeler Herisse (USAID); Speakers: Martha Smith (US-Mexico Foundation), Deepak Lamba-Nieves (MIT), Dr. Georges Casimir (SUNY Downstate), & Dr. Tatiana Wah (Columbia University)

Group #4: Live Workshop: The Technology Toolbox

Think you can’t create a podcast or design for a mobile device? Think again. Tech experts provide easy-to-follow tutorials on developing mobile and social media platforms to engage domestic and international audiences. This session will be of particular interest to participants looking to find innovative and tech-savvy ways to organize their communities in the U.S., and to connect with their countries of heritage.

Workshop Lead: Rob Bole (Director of the Broadcasting Board of Governor's, Office of Digital & Design Innovation)

The Global Diaspora Forum 2012

The theme for the 2012 Global Diaspora Forum held in Washington, DC on July 25-26 was “Moving Forward by Giving Back.” The Forum focused on how new technology can empower and increase diaspora philanthropy, social entrepreneurship, volunteerism, and social innovation. Please click here to download short bios on each of the event’s plenary speakers or to listen to podcasts of selected panels. The Global Diaspora Forum is an annual celebration of America’s diaspora communities. The gathering challenged diaspora communities to forge partnerships with the private sector, civil society, and public institutions in order to make their engagements with their countries of origin or ancestry effective, scalable, and sustainable.

The event brought together a diverse range of stakeholders, all passionate about promoting diaspora engagement, including:

  • Leaders of diaspora communities
  • U.S. government officials
  • Private sector stakeholders
  • Representatives of international institutions 
  • Foundations executives
  • Academic experts
  • Members of nonprofit organizations
Secretary Hillary R. Clinton | Opening Speech | Day 1



Dr. Rajiv Shah | Opening Speech | Day 2


Kris Balderston | U.S. Department of State



Breakout Sessions Audio Recordings

Day 1

Social Entrepreneurship: Diaspora Change Makers

Diaspora communities are at the forefront of innovative problem-solving and are the most willing to take risks to empower and improve their country of origin. Join us as we discuss how diaspora-driven social entrepreneurship can be used to foster sustainable development in countries of origin.  

Speakers: Anousheh Ansari (Prodea Systems), Iman Bibars (Ashoka), Cheryl Dorsey (Echoing Green), Fawzia Naqvi (Soros Economic Development Fund), Moderator: Roopal Shah, IndiCorps

Diaspora Apps: The Next Generation of Engagement

People are beginning to learn that a cause they are passionate about is likely shared by others as well. Join us as we discuss new ways to foster greater impact by pooling resources and knowledge to create sustainable partnerships that enable larger groups of people to contribute what they can to make a difference and increase diaspora philanthropy.

Speakers: Bef Ayenew (ArifSoft), Ravi Gundlapalli (MentorCloud), John Hecklinger (GlobalGiving), Antony Taylor (WellSpace), Moderator: Hoosheen Hashemi, The Hand Foundation

Diaspora Volunteerism: Serving Your Heritage

Over 60 million first and second generation Americans have strong roots in their countries of origin and want to know what they can do to help. Diasporas can provide technical advice and professional expertise, often have the linguistic and cultural familiarity that makes engagement more effective and trustworthy from the recipient’s vantage point, particularly in the most volatile regions, and diaspora volunteers can help counter the effects of “brain drain”. This session will explore different ways that organized volunteer programs can engage diaspora volunteers and provide perspective from diaspora volunteers who have undertaken projects in their countries of origin.

Speakers: Derek Evans (Cuso International), Natalie Grigorian (Birthright Armenia), Gregory Price (VolunteerMatch), Aelaf Worku (American International Health Alliance), Moderator: Micheal Deal, VEGA

 Mobile Money: Implications for Engagement

The role of remittances is a backbone within diaspora communities and, to many developing economies, a backbone of the economy. Mobile technology and mobile money have the potential to lower costs and expand the ability of communities to transfer funds, support the growth of businesses and the thriving entrepreneurial spirit in their respective diaspora. This session will explore the growing number of services available to those interested in remitting funds through mobile technologies and the resulting business opportunities from these new payment methods.

Speakers: Bill Barhydt (Boom Financial), Conan French (Open Revolution), John Owens (Chemonics), Barbara Span (Western Union), Moderator: Nandini Harihareswara, Mobile Solutions USAID

 Startup Diaspora: Unleashing A Transational Ecosystem

With so many new jobs in entrepreneurial economies coming from startups (firms less than five years old), it is not surprising that leaders around the world are looking to reinvigorate their economies by focusing on ways to stimulate startups. Diaspora entrepreneurs can play a pivot role in cultivating the innovation and startup ecosystems of their countries of origin. 

Speakers: Claire Lee (Microsoft), Dilawar Syed (Yonja Media Group), Driss Temsamani (Maghreb Growth Foundation), Oltac Unsal (The World Bank Group), Moderator: Thomas Debass, Global Partnerships Initiative U.S. Department of State

Day 2

Partnership Opportunities with Public Institutions

Building new programs and increasing your reach is difficult without proper funding. Join experts as they delve into new funding sources and explain how to apply for grants, undertake public-private partnerships, and share best practices for financing your diaspora community’s initiatives.

Speakers: Romi Bhatia (USAID), Jeff Brown (USAID), Aaron Sherinian (United Nations Foundation), James Thompson, Global Partnerships Initiative U.S. Department of State

Innovations to Affect Change

This panel will provide best practices in giving the diaspora a voice through online platforms and social media. The panelists will also describe ways that their organizations work to raise awareness about issues of interest to the diaspora and educate individuals on how they can contribute in a way that will be meaningful both for the diaspora community and their country of heritage.

Speakers: Aphrodite Boulikidis (Reinventing Greece Media Project), Katleen Felix (Haitain Hometown Associations Resource Group & Fonkoze), Molly Mattessich (Africa Rural Connect), Nicholas Reville (Amara), Moderator: Raul Hinogosa-Ojeda, North American Integration and Development Center at the University of California

The Global Diaspora Forum 2011

May 17, 2011 marked the launch of the inaugural Secretary’s Global Diaspora Forum. The three-day event was hosted jointly by the Department of State, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Migration Policy Institute. The Forum brought together US-based diasporas to recognize and celebrate the positive contributions of diaspora communities in fostering cross-cultural understanding and undertaking development initiatives in their countries of origin or ancestry. More than 350 leaders from diaspora communities across the world were on hand to discuss the role that diasporas can play in foreign policy and development efforts. The ultimate goal of the Forum was to encourage diaspora-centric public-private partnerships while cultivating learning and knowledge sharing among the various diaspora communities to go beyond cooperation and [be] about partnership.’

Dr. Rajiv Shah | Speech



Dr. Rajiv Shah | Q&A


Secretary Hillary R. Clinton | Speech



Maria Otero | U.S. Dept. of State


Kanayo Nwanze | President IFAD


Luis Alberto Moreno | President IDB



Obiageli Ezekwesili | V.P. World Bank Africa


Diosdado Banatao | PhilDev


Denis O'Brien | Digicel Group



Bill Barhydt | m-Via


Khalid Fellahi | Western Union


Noosheen Hashemi | HAND Foundation



Raul Hinojosa | Mexican-American Leadership Initiative





Latest Activity

These resources are from the Diaspora Engagement Seminar, Connecting to Diaspora Communities Through Web Platforms: Opportunities and Limitations , featuring Molly Mattessich (VEGA Alliance) and Eric Guichard (GRAVITAS Capital Advisors Inc.). The seminar, which was held in Washington D.C. on...
Diaspora communities have played a longtime role in the development of their countries of origin in areas as diverse as business development, financial investments, philanthropy, volunteerism, advocacy, etc. For instance, the amount of money diaspora communities send to their home countries as...
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The speakers featured during the February 15, 2012 Diaspora Enagement Seminar #7 were Kathleen Newland (MPI), Jennifer Brinkerhoff (George Washington University), Nadia Roumani (American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute), and Aram Hamparian (Armenian National Committee of America). The panelists...
Semhar Araia is founder and Executive Director of the Diaspora African Women's Network (DAWN), an organization whose mission is to develop and support talented women and girls of the African diaspora focused on African affairs.   If I were to tell a 10-year old girl in Middle America...