Beyond Washington

Understanding the U.S. Heartland

The 2024 program dates will be August 11 to August 17, 2024 

A Program to the United States for Staffers of German Bundestag Representatives

Cultural Vistas invites staffers of German Bundestag Members (MdBs) to apply to the Beyond Washington program, an eight-day professional exchange that provides participants with a deeper understanding of the U.S. heartland.

The transatlantic relationship is undergoing profound changes. Decades-old norms in foreign policy are being replaced by new approaches to international affairs by both the United States and Germany. In the U.S., these changes in foreign policy positions are rooted in domestic policies and issues that are not always apparent to foreign observers or experts, but that have been shaping the development of U.S. local and national politics for decades. The influence of China on the world political order, Russia’s destabilization of European security, and the upcoming presidential elections in the U.S in November 2024, are all pressing issues in U.S.-German relations that are reforming the nature of the transatlantic alliance.

To provide context and a deeper understanding of the political changes taking place in the U.S., Cultural Vistas offers the Beyond Washington: Understanding the U.S. Heartland program. The program invites staffers who work for MdBs to apply for an eight-day visitor program to the United States. The 2024 program will take place in Madison, Wisconsin and the surrounding area.

The primary goal of the program is to promote a deeper understanding among MdB staffers of U.S. domestic and resultant foreign policies. The program aims to strengthen transatlantic relations by allowing this group of MdB staffers to connect with Americans beyond the political hubs and the capital. Beyond Washington focuses on the following themes: 

  • Local and State policy and budget priorities 
  • Economic and social driving forces 
  • Climate action and social justice  
  • The importance of public diplomacy and means to foster multi-lateral relations 

Cultural Vistas arranges high-level meetings with leaders from government, business, civil society, and other relevant contacts that bring into focus a set of regional challenges that are echoed in other areas of the country.

Eligibility

Up to 18 staffers who work in the offices of Members of the German Bundestag (MdBs) will be accepted to participate in the program each year. Staffers for MdBs from all political parties and Fraktionen (as well as unaffiliated MdBs) are eligible to apply.

Applicants must be primarily employed in the office of a German MdB, have an interest in U.S. affairs, and speak English proficiently, so that they can engage in meaningful conversations while in the United States.

Special consideration will be given to staffers whose MdBs represent districts that have shared challenges with the area to be visited in the U.S. Staffers employed directly by their MdBs in Berlin as well as staffers working in district offices are all encouraged to apply. Applicants who have not previously spent a significant amount of time in the United States will also be given special consideration in the application process.

Participants in the Beyond Washington program will share the lessons learned during the program with a wider audience via a post-program report and an event in the district of their MdB, acting as multipliers and spreading an understanding of the primary issues impacting the United States’ heartland.

2024 Timeline

Monday, April 1, 2024:
Application Deadline

April 2024: Notification of selected participants

Early August:
Virtual pre-departure meeting

August 11, 2024
Program Start in Madison, WI

August 11 – 17, 2024

Meetings in Madison, WI and surrounding area

August 17, 2024
Program ends in Madison, WI

September 2024 through November 2024:
Participants organize events to share the lessons learned during the program with a wider audience in the electoral districts of their MdBs.

 

Costs

The program covers accommodation in Madison, WI, all on-the-ground transfers during the program, health insurance, meetings with leaders from government, business, civil society, a home hospitality visit, and cultural activities.

Selected participants need to cover their travel costs to and from Madison, WI. They are free to choose their preferred means of transportation but need to ensure timely arrival at the start of the program. Selected participants need to also cover their own meals during the program in the U.S.

What Participants Are Saying

“Auf der persönlichen Ebene hat sich mein Verständnis für die USA als Land wie auch der US-amerikanischen Politik grundlegend erweitert… Doch die Erfahrungen, die wir in Springfield gemacht haben, überstiegen bei weitem meine Erwartungen.”

“Die Möglichkeit, mit so vielen Personen zu reden und Einblicke in das amerikanische Leben zu bekommen, war für mich einzigartig. Meine Erwartungen vor der Reise wurden übertroffen und meine Ansicht, dass man die Menschen vor Ort erstmal treffen muss, um sich eine Meinung zu bilden, bewahrheitet.”“Die dringende Frage unserer Zeit ist, wie man diesem Polarisierungstrend etwas entgegensetzt. Und dies ist die Frage, die nicht nur in den USA relevant ist; überall auf der Welt scheinen Länder mehr oder weniger von diesem Phänomen betroffen zu sein. Deutschland ist keine Ausnahme, und ich halte dies für eine der zentralen Fragen der Zukunft. Daher werde ich dieses Thema nach dem Beyond Washington Programm in einer Diskussion mit den Bürgern im Wahlkreis meines MdBs erörtern.”“Neben den neuen Geschichten und Lernerfahrungen, die ich Washington DC und Pittsburgh sammeln konnte, hatte ich auf meiner Rückreise aber ein noch bedeutenderes „Mitbringsel“ im Gepäck – nämlich das Interesse an den USA. Dieses neue Interesse hat dafür gesorgt, dass ich mich nach diesem Programm weiter und intensiver mit US-amerikanischer Politik, Gesellschaft und Kultur beschäftigt habe.”“In unserer täglichen Arbeit erleben wir momentan, dass die außenpolitischen Positionen der Vereinigten Staaten ihre Ursprünge in der amerikanischen Innenpolitik haben. Nur vor Ort kann man wirklich verstehen, wie Politik in den USA funktioniert und wie diese Politik die transatlantischen Beziehungen beeinflusst.”“Ich habe viel gelernt, was sowohl im beruflichen als auch privaten Kontext hilfreich sein wird.”

The Beyond Washington program has been administered by Cultural Vistas since 2018, with a different cohort of MdB staffers being selected each year to visit a different U.S. region. Programming locations and meeting partners will be adjusted according to the most important U.S. domestic issues as they evolve during the course of the program.  

The application deadline for the sixth iteration of Beyond Washington is: Monday, April 1, 2024.   

Application and Selection Procedure – Beyond Washington 2024 

Following review of all applications, Cultural Vistas will make a pre-selection of candidates who are the most qualified to participate in the program according to the eligibility requirements. Cultural Vistas seeks a participant group that reflects the diverse political landscape of Germany and who work for MdBs from all political parties (as well as unaffiliated MdBs). This pre-selection list, based on criteria evaluated by Cultural Vistas, will be sent to the U.S. Embassy in Berlin. The U.S. Embassy in Berlin will make the final selection of participants.