Sister Cities International Board Member Carla Walker writes for The Rivard Report

Article by Carla Walker, Sister Cities International Board Member, first published in The Rivard Report.

The Sister City View from a Cincinnati Visitor to San Antonio

Imagine how excited I was to walk the grounds of the real Alamo.  But it wasn’t a campaign that brought me to San Antonio. It was the 57th Annual Conference of Sister Cities International (SCI), the national membership organization for individual sister cities, counties, and states across the US, that advances peace and prosperity through cultural, educational, humanitarian, and economic development exchanges.

The conference theme, The Power of Exchange, focused on the central message that cities and municipalities are at the core of driving global connections.  As a member of the SCI Board of Directors and Chair of their Membership Committee for the last three years, the subject of how cities create and leverage their Sister City relationships as part of an overall global strategy cannot be discussed enough.

I spent five years focusing on this very topic.  From 2005-2010, as Chief of Staff for Mayor Mark Mallory of Cincinnati and city liaison to Sister Cities, I led an initiative to improve our City brand in the global space.  Immediately, I looked to assets such as our Sister City organization to assist with that effort.  Our relationships with cities in Germany, China, France, Taiwan, Ukraine, Japan, and Harare were logical jumping off points from which to develop and expand our brand, expand avenues of economic development and broaden cross cultural ties.  One of our major successes was aligning with the Convention & Visitors Bureau to secure the 2012 World Choir Games which brought 200,000 visitors from around the world to our doorstep for two weeks.

Proud of what we accomplished? Yes. Satisfied? Well, I think we could have done more with a different approach.  Beyond that one event, which did galvanize the city, I had hoped we could leverage the opportunity to engage in the development of a more comprehensive global strategy.  The city has the assets at its disposal.

Greater Cincinnati is home to nine Fortune 500 Company headquarters.  We have more than 15 higher education institutions at our fingertips and a medical community that is nationally recognized many times over.  We are home to several ethnic Chambers of Commerce and business organizations such as the European-American Chamber, the Greater Cincinnati Chinese Chamber, the Taiwanese Association, the Japan America Association, the Indian American Chamber, The African-American Chamber, and the Hispanic Chamber.

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Cincinnati Press Conference

Press conference announcing Cincinnati to host 2012 Regional Conference. From left: Kim Robinson, CEO National Underground Freedom Center; Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, Dan Lincoln, President Cincinnati Convention & Visitors Bureau; Carla Walker.

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As the world becomes smaller, and connections online become more frequent than face-to-face interactions, multicultural understanding at the community level is more important than ever. Sister Cities International enables citizen diplomats in communities across the world to develop relationships with communities in other countries that are based on cultural understanding and mutual cooperation.Donate