Global Entrepreneurship

Global entrepreneurship is at the heart of Meridian's work in creating world leaders. Through our many exchange programs, Meridian has fostered enormous growth and success for emerging business owners, change-makers, creatives and more. Below is a quick snapshot.

Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI)

Meridian International Center was pleased to implement the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Professional Fellows Program on behalf of the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. YLAI empowers entrepreneurs to strengthen their capacity to advance their entrepreneurial ventures and effectively contribute to economic and social development in their communities. In fall 2018, 250 YLAI Professional Fellows from Latin America and the Caribbean expanded their leadership and entrepreneurial experience through fellowships at businesses and organizations across the United States. Through the YLAI Entrepreneurship Institute and the individualized Fellowships, YLAI Fellows accelerated their ventures’ success and developed specific action plans to carry out upon return to their home countries. YLAI Fellows have built networks, linkages and lasting partnerships to attract investments and support for their entrepreneurial ventures.

Since fall of 2016, over 500 entrepreneurs from 36 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have successfully participated in the YLAI Professional Fellows Program. Learn more about the YLAI Fall 2016 Cohort here, the YLAI 2017 Cohort here, and the YLAI 2018 Cohort here.

To complement the U.S.-based program, U.S. Fellowship Hosts had the opportunity to participate in the YLAI Reverse Exchange, where they traveled to the region to learn organizational practices at the Fellows’ businesses, share best practices, and support Fellows’ action plan progress. Additionally, U.S. Fellowship Hosts participated in local programming to benefit the Fellows' home community. Since fall of 2016, over 70 U.S.-based Fellowship Hosts participated in a Reverse Exchange.

Pan-Africa Youth Leadership Program (PAYLP)

Meridian is pleased to implement the U.S. Department of State’s Pan-Africa Youth Leadership Program (PAYLP) on behalf of the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Each year, this dynamic youth leadership program engages 150 African students and adult mentors from across Africa for a three week U.S.-based training and cultural exchange.

When we think of youth, we think of idealism, hopes, and dreams for the future. The Pan Africa Youth Leadership Program (PAYLP) believes in the potential for greater impact when leadership development programs target young leaders. Meridian programs have directly benefitted over 3,500 alumni of fellowships and exchanges, empowering them as “agents of change” in their home countries while inspiring at least as many U.S. youth and adults. Through PAYLP, high-school students and adult educators from across Africa will have the unique opportunity to meet and engage with American peers to exchange ideas, while also gaining practical leadership and technical skills through the PAYLP curriculum. PAYLP offers:

  • Interactive leadership trainings
  • Conflict resolution seminars
  • Entrepreneurship classes
  • Community service opportunities
  • Cultural activities for the students
  • Two weeks of living with American host families,
  • An overview of U.S history and culture
  • A lifelong alumni network for the participants

San Diego Global Ties Conference

Meridian offered 5 YLAI 2018 Alumni the opportunity to attend the Global Ties U.S. Regional Conference. The selected Fellows were given the opportunity to speak and network at the San Diego conference as well as participate in an Exhibitor Fair. The Summit offered a unique opportunity for participants to advertise their business, participate in a panel session, network with San Diego's international affairs community, meet with a national network of international relations practitioners at the U.S. Department of State, and meet with local organizations and businesses from their industries.

Alumni Interviews

  • Liz Tracy is a mission-focused leader with experience in building collaborative communities. She has a deep understanding of how to build initiatives from the ground up with a focus on innovation and entrepreneurship. Liz is currently pursuing her PhD in Industrial/Organizational psychology at NCSU. She is the former Director of HQ Raleigh and continues to be part of the startup community through mentoring young companies and through her work as a social entrepreneurship strategist and facilitator. Listen here.
  • After returning home from his YLAI Fellowship, YLAI 2018 Alum Andres Sanchez Mora used the connections he made in the U.S. to launch a new Startup Grind chapter and support the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Manta, Ecuador. During this interview, Andres discusses the challenges he faced while creating this new partnership with Startup Grind and Google for Startups and the strategies he applied to launch their chapter’s very first entrepreneurship event in January. Check out this interview to hear how Andres is changing the realm of entrepreneurship for the next generation of entrepreneurs in Ecuador. Listen here.
  • Alexandra Clark was born into a chocolate loving family who wasn't surprised at all when at 19, she announced that she had decided to dedicate her life to the art of chocolatier. After traveling the world studying her craft as an economist, confectioner, and retailer, she started Bon Bon Bon as a happy experiment. Since then, The Babes Babes Babes have received recognition at The James Beard Awards, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Tasting Table, Martha Stewart and Forbes Magazine who named her the "Best Pastry Chef Under 30". Clark remains committed to supporting the agricultural community through design. Listen here.

To hear the full YLAI Innovators Series Podcast, click here.

Alumni Achievements

Victor Juarez, YLAI 2016 Fellow from Guatemala, was named Exchange Alumni of the month by ECA and was recognized by the Embassy of Guatemala in Washington. See here.

Alexandra Clark, U.S. YLAI Host, was names on of Forbes 30 Under 30 in 2016. See here.

Davis Smith, U.S. YLAI Host and Innovator Series participant, has been recognized for his achievements by the UN Foundation and Forbes.

Please contact Erin Koepke at for more information.