Advocacy and Community Engagement

Educational leaders encourage student success by advocating for global competence and engaging families, community members, and policymakers for support. This involves promoting global learning to key stakeholders, including staff, students, parents, district leadership, school boards, and state policymakers; gathering input on global initiatives from families, business leaders, and community leaders; engaging all families as partners in global learning; and connecting to local businesses, universities, community organizations, and cultural initiatives that support global learning.

Advocating for global learning can take many forms: from making the case to parents in newsletters, family nights, and ad-hoc conversations to presenting the benefits of global learning to boards of education. Leaders can engage families in global initiatives by creating communication channels for them to share their perspectives, ideas, questions, and concerns, as well as their own global experiences and expertise. To form relationships with community partners does steer time and energy away from the school building, but the impact is rewarding when measured by the global learning opportunities that can be reeled back in for students and staff, whether that be fiscal or political support, effective professional development, or inspiring guest speakers with varied cultural and global experiences.

Tenet in Action

Educational leaders promote student success by advocating for global competence and engaging families, community members, and policymakers for support. Globally competent educational leaders:

  • Promote the importance of global learning to key stakeholders, including staff, students, parents, district leaders, school boards, and state policymakers 

  • Gather input on global initiatives from families, business leaders, and community leaders 

  • Engage all families as partners for global learning 

  • Connect to local businesses, universities, community organizations, and cultural initiatives that support global learning

Suggested Activities: Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment

First Steps 

  • Survey parents and community members to learn about their cultural backgrounds, global experiences, and attitudes towards global competence initiatives 

  • Host parent and student town hall meetings to share information, answer

    questions, and gather feedback on global competence initiatives 

  • Host community forums that invite strategic business and community leaders 

  • Invite families to participate in world cultures days or international nights 

  • Conduct a community audit of cultural and global resources (e.g., businesses with global ties, religious institutions, languages spoken) that might support students’ global competence development

Deeper Dives

  • Invite parents, community members, and local business leaders as guest speakers on cultural and global topics 

  • Help staff and students who participate in global learning experiences (e.g., exchange programs, project-based learning investigations) present what they have learned to school assemblies, PTA meetings, district administrators, and school boards 

  • Create digital and print collateral to share with staff, students, and families that makes the case for why global learning matters to their local context and addresses concerns voiced by community members

  • Reach out to local individuals and community groups to become partners in students’ global learning 

  • Encourage families and community members to serve as hosts for exchange students 

  • Ensure that school documents intended for community dissemination are translated into languages commonly spoken in the community 

  • Invite family members and strategic business and community leaders to serve on global task forces or advisory boards

Full Immersion

  • Organize student-led conferences and exhibitions that highlight students’ global work and interests that are open to the public 

  • Work with existing sister city, rotary and other local civic relationships so that they include educational exchanges for students and/or staff 

  • Serve on town, city, state, or national commissions that advocate for global learning

  • Engage in global learning experiences with local community groups (e.g., student internships with multinational businesses, service learning projects with religious institutions, investigating diversity of language and culture within the community)


Case Studies

Gathering input on global initiatives from families.

Mr. Cliff Hong, Principal, Roosevelt Middle School, Oakland, CA

To engage families, Mr. Hong hosts parent engagement groups where the group talk about curriculum and topics. He shares, “We would like to have a curriculum topic night where the community can share what they hope students will learn about. We have an international school population: 548 students are students of color and two students this year are Caucasian; most are children of recent immigrants or long-term English learners. So what we want to do is not force what the state or federal government says is official curriculum down to them. We want to co-construct the curriculum based on the topics that are important to them. Memorizing facts isn’t most important. Empowering people who can make their community better is.”

Mr. Brent Wozniak, Chief Academic Officer, Vaughn Next Century Learning Center, Pacoima, CA

One element of Vaughn’s teacher evaluation matrix includes the extent to which it includes parents in instructional programming. As a school leader, Mr. Wozniak encourages parent involvement in many different forms. He shares, “There are multiple ways to involve parents that allow them to be engaged in authentic ways. It can be as simple as asking kids to interview their parents about a critical issue. We also have a great art teacher who asks students to put social justice messages into their artwork, then hosts an art exposé where she invites all of the parents in the school community to serve as both an authentic audience for the students’ work and as judges on the social message of the artwork.”

Connecting to local businesses, universities, community organizations, and cultural initiatives that support global learning.

Mr. Rick Swanson, Principal, Hingham High School, Hingham, MA

Mr. Swanson has reached out to an array of financial and cultural resources in his town and surrounding area to support global initiatives. He shares, “We have a lot of advantages being in a community that is very supportive of our schools. Once you start to look, there’s all kind of support out there.” Foundations have been one fruitful source of financial support for new projects. For example, to start the school’s Global Citizenship Program (GCP), Mr. Swanson and two teachers applied for a grant from the local Hingham Education Foundation, which provides seed money to support school, teacher, and administrator ideas. When the high school began planning the Osaka, Japan, exchange, a GCP teacher wrote and received a $50,000 grant from the United States Japan Foundation. Partnerships with local organizations and universities in and around the Boston area have further supported staff and student global learning. including Primary Source for professional development, Education First for international trips, and Harvard University for speakers on timely global topics.

Mr. Swanson also calls upon the business community in creative ways. He explains, “There is something in it for businesses to be associated with innovative educational initiatives. Many pride themselves on being good corporate citizens and are eager to help.” Local businesses have underwritten the reusable hydration stations located throughout the school and have paid for speakers. Many local businesses also supported the Osaka exchange, including the baseball boosters club, a car dealership, a water company, and a local bank. Local celebrity chef Paul Wahlberg hosted dinners at his restaurant for the coaches, a jeweler donated gifts, the Little League donated baseball caps and shirts, the Boston Red Sox gave the students a free tour of Fenway Park, and the Boston Celtics gave away 100 basketball tickets to host families and their exchange students. Mr. Swanson advises: “When you’re passionate, you can find the time to make calls to reach out. It’s well worth it. It’s one of the most exhilarating parts of my work, the most rewarding, and the most fun. Plenty of businesses did say, ‘No thanks.’ But plenty of others were super enthusiastic.”

Mr. Brent Wozniak, Chief Academic Officer, Vaughn Next Century Learning Center, Pacoima, CA

Mr. Wozniak works hard to find authentic experiences for students to apply global competence skills and knowledge. He reached out to the World Affairs Council in his city, a nonprofit that brings in world leaders to ticketed dinner events to give speeches to their members. Since making that first call to ask if his students could attend, Mr. Wozniak has taken students to 75 of these events. Students have interviewed presidents, ambassadors, and other foreign officials from Tanzania, Ghana, Egypt, Pakistan, China, and more.

Mr. Wozniak explains the process: “I take four kids who will interview the world leader for 20–30 minutes. To select the students, I’ll go to teachers and say, ‘Here’s this opportunity. If anyone in your class is doing a project that relates to something that the World Affairs Council speakers could address let me know.’ Then I open the invite, so everyone has an equal stake in this. When the students are chosen, we brief them on the critical issues and assist them in developing questions that they may wish to ask of that particular world leader. For example, when Mr. Wozniak publicized that the president of Ghana would be speaking at the World Affairs Council, three students came forward and said, ‘We want to ask about LGBTQ rights to the president of Ghana.’ In preparation for the interview, Mr. Wozniak taught them skills in diplomacy, tact, researching, creating questions, and public speaking. He shares, “Instead of starting with the statement ‘that’s not fair,’ we teach students ways to ask question so that the other person actually listens to you. As a result, when the students conducted the interview, they made the president of Ghana dance around their questions. They didn’t ask a softball question. World leaders aren’t expecting that. Kids see in themselves that they can interact with leaders on a global stage. To do that effectively takes preparation, understanding, and actualizing what they’re learning.”

Dr. Tom Buffett, Principal, Lewton Global Studies/Spanish Immersion Magnet School, Lansing, MI

Dr. Buffett actively seeks partnerships with local university and community organizations that “have their heart in global education.” He recognizes that even though Lansing, Michigan, is a sanctuary city with some efforts to be open to world cultures, that doesn’t mean their students and families get exposed to them. Therefore, he identifies community resources that bring the world to students. For example, he connected with the Michigan State University (MSU) professor who directs their school of education’s global education program for potential hires. He shares, “We have one graduate of the MSU program as a first-year teacher and she’s absolutely fantastic. She’s already there, and makes my job so much easier. She loves learning about the world and taking that to kids.” Other examples include engaging a local church group to facilitate activities for the school’s African Heritage Night and asking his wife, a professor at MSU, to recruit international students for Asian Heritage Night. For Dr. Buffett, inviting partners to visit the school is key. He advises, “So much is about inviting partners into our school, understanding what they hope they’ll get out of the work, seeing what our students are capable of, and explaining our hopes and vision for the partnership. When community members come to our school who have never been before, it opens more doors.”

Additional Resources

Books and Articles

Campos, D., Delgado, R., & Huerta, E. S. (2011). Reaching out to Latino families of English language learners. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Cashman, J., Linehan, P., Purcell, L., Rosser, M., Schultz, S., & Skalski, S. (2014). Leading by convening: A blueprint for authentic engagement. Alexandria, VA: National Association of State Directors of Special Education.

Ridnouer, K. (2011). Everyday engagement: Making students and parents your partners in learning. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


Mapping the Nation. Online mapping resource and toolkit from the Longview Foundation and Asia Society to promote international education at the national, state and county levels.

Community Organizations and Resources

National Resource Centers. Title VI under the Higher Education Act has created centers to study different regions of the world, language centers to expand instruction of “uncommon languages,” and language institutes to train foreign language teachers, most of which are housed at universities.

TakingIT Global. A global online community that seeks to inspire, inform, connect, and empower youth to take action to improve communities locally and globally.

World Affairs Councils of America. Located in 40 states, including Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, the 90 World Affairs Councils across the United States offer programming and educational initiatives focused on engaging communities to better understand the world.

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