YSEALI Lead Image Crop

Key Project Information


U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and American Councils for International Education

Period of Performance



Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste, United States, Vietnam

ICMA's Role

The YSEALI Professional Fellows Program is a two-way exchange program designed to promote mutual understanding, enhance leadership and professional skills, and build lasting and sustainable partnerships between emerging leaders in Southeast Asia and the United States.

Project Details

Since 2012, ICMA has been implementing U.S. State Department Professional Fellowship Programs. Initially these exchanges focused on legislative and governance technical areas broadly. Since 2018, ICMA has implemented professional exchange programs to address specifically sustainable development and the environment through the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Institute (YSEALI) program, where many ICMA members host these young professionals across the U.S. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).

Themes for Leadership and Professional Development Opportunities

The Sustainable Development and the Environment theme provides the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Professional Fellows with an opportunity to explore public and private sector approaches to environmental challenges. It also supports professionals involved in food and water security; public health; ecotourism; the innovative development and management of agricultural, energy, housing and/or transportation resources; natural disaster response; natural resource conservation and restoration; and waste management, with an emphasis on grassroots activism; government policy and regulation; and market-oriented initiatives.

2023 Sustainability Fellows with Loudoun County, VA Parks & Rec team
2023 Sustainability Fellows with Loudoun County, VA Parks & Rec team

How Does It Work?

Selected participants will travel to the US for six weeks during their fellowship period. Selected Fellows will be hosted by an organization for four weeks. ICMA will match selected Fellows with a host organization based on their professional background, technical expertise and community challenge.

Fellows will identify a community challenge and find a way to address it after the program. Fellows will work with their American host during the program to find innovative ways to solve that challenge. 

2023 Sustainability Fellows at Banshee Reeks Nature Reserve in Loudoun County, VA
2023 Sustainability Fellows at Banshee Reeks Nature Reserve in Loudoun County, VA

Host a Fellow

ICMA matches Fellows with U.S. host communities that provide educational and cultural experiences for the Fellows during a four-week period. In return, hosts may apply for reciprocal visits in the Fellow's country. Past hosts have found the experience highly rewarding.

Apply to host a fellow

“The opportunity to work with the nation of Indonesia has been a chance for my organization to broaden their perspectives of municipal government responsibilities and focused it on our best practices. As City Manager, I personally have seen a new appreciation by my staff for the challenges of municipal government beyond our borders. I believe the continued opportunity to work with Indonesian counterparts allows me to grow professionally and obtain new ideas for use in my American city.” – Mark Watson, City Manager, Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

“My six-week stay in the US was the most memorable experience of my life. I had the opportunity to visit various farms and engage in insightful knowledge-sharing experiences with amazing farmers I met along the way. Witnessing how farmers actively contribute to their communities and society left the greatest impression on me. It was inspiring to see that farming extended beyond their own lands to schools, where they engaged children in farming lessons and activities, fostering a deeper connection between agriculture and education. Additionally, experiencing small-town living in Frankfort reshaped my preconceptions about community and hospitality. The warmth and kindness of the people left an indelible mark on me, and I find myself yearning to return to that place time and time again.” – Nasuha, 2023 Sustainability Fellow, Thailand.

"Before my fellowship journey, I was indecisive, lacked confidence, and lacked knowledge. The YSEALI program gave me opportunities to shape myself both personally and professionally. I became better at decision-making, my self-confidence improved, and I also gained more knowledge, connections, and ideas. After I got back, I implemented my follow-on project, where I tried to set up a waste management system for communities that I work for by encouraging people to separate their waste and reduce generating waste if possible. Now, I have a one-year-old model compost bin for food waste as well as a Facebook group called ‘You first’, a community for people who are interested in waste sorting and sustainability development in a practical way." – Tarnya, 2022 Sustainability Fellow, Thailand.



Solar Energy Expedition with Exchange Fellow from U.S Professional Fellowship Program

Past program participant Noor Shahiwan Bin Ismail put his experience from the YSEALI Professional Fellows Program to work in an aboriginal village in Malaysia with Mark Bortman, an outbound U.S. Fellow. Together, they visited houses to examine solar energy systems and to complete some maintenance and installations.

YSEALI-ICMA Professional Fellowship ( Legislative Process & Governance ) Fall 2017 Team Video Project

Funded by

The YSEALI program is managed through the support of a grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and is administered by ICMA.

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