FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHAT IS JACKSONVILLE SISTER CITIES ASSOCIATION?
Jacksonville Sister Cities Association, Inc. (JSCA) is a nonprofit 501(C)3 located in Jacksonville, Florida. We are not a formal part of City government, but for many years we have acted as the Mayor of Jacksonville's international protocol office. For example, our volunteers assist the mayor with visits from international visitors, particularly those from our Sister Cities.
WHAT IS THE MISSION OF JACKSONVILLE SISTER CITIES ASSOCIATION?
The mission of JSCA is to foster and encourage mutual understanding, friendship and peace through cultural, economic, educational and professional exchanges between the people of Jacksonville and the people of our Sister and Friendship Cities.
WHICH ARE JACKSONVILLE'S SISTER CITIES?
Jacksonville currently has eight Sister Cities:
- Bahia Blanca, Argentina
- Curitiba, Brazil
- Changwon City, South Korea
- Murmansk, Russia
- Nantes, France
- Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa
- San Juan, Puerto Rico
- Yingkou, China;
- Jacksonville also has three Friendship Cities in China: Ningbo, Shaoxing and Suzhou.
WHEN WAS JSCA CREATED?
Jacksonville has had an active sister city program since 1967, when it "twinned" with its first Sister City: Bahia Blanca, Argentina. The two communities still enjoy a strong Sister City relationship.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SISTER CITY
AND A FRIENDSHIP CITY?
In the United States, "Sister Cities" denotes the formal relationship between two communities consummated by the signature of the mayors of both cities and recognized by Sister Cities International. "Friendship City" relationships refer to a partnership that is less formal and more limited in scope. JSCA has eight Sister Cities and three Friendship Cities. Note that various terms are used around the world to describe a long-term partnership between two communities: sister cities (United States, Mexico), twin cities (Russia, United Kingdom), partnerstadt (Germany), and jumelage (France) all denote the same concept of partnered communities.
WHAT KINDS OF PROGRAMMING DOES JSCA PLAN,
AND MAY I BECOME A PART OF IT?
JSCA coordinates a variety of programs both locally in Jacksonville as well as with our Sister Cities – and all JSCA members are welcome and encouraged to participate. All international projects involve one or more of our Sister Cities and usually have either a cultural, educational or business focus. Many projects (but not all) involve exchanges between people in Jacksonville and those in our Sister Cities. Here are examples of recent projects coordinated by JSCA:
An African Business Summit held at UNF to educate Northeast Florida companies about doing business in South Africa;
A group of high school students from Bahia Blanca visiting Jacksonville for three weeks to attend school and stay with local families….. followed by a group of Jacksonville high school students traveling to Bahia Blanca, Argentina for two weeks;
A group of Chinese port and government officials visiting JAXPORT and Jacksonville city leaders to discuss potential business;
A delegation of city and tourism officials from Nantes, France visiting Jacksonville to meet with local city, port and tourism officials to discuss tourism and port opportunities;
A free annual September 11 "Peace Concert" held in downtown Jacksonville featuring local student and adult vocalists;
A local soccer tournament held in Jacksonville, with plans for a subsequent tournament to include teams from each of Jacksonville's Sister Cities playing in Northeast Florida;
A series of "Doing Business with Jacksonville Sister Cities" business seminars now being planned.
A committee of Northeast Florida residents coordinating a national grant to construct a health or sanitation project in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa.
DOES JSCA HAVE REGULAR MEETINGS I CAN ATTEND?
JSCA plans a variety of programs for members throughout the year, everything from business seminars to music concerts and cultural celebrations. Nearly all of our "meetings" are really planning sessions to coordinate this programming; however, JSCA does hold one formal member meeting each year (in the fall) for all members to learn more about upcoming events and strategic plans for our organization. Members are welcome to attend the annual meeting. Of course, members also are welcome – and encouraged – to participate in the planning meetings to help shape upcoming programs.
DOES JSCA PLAN TRIPS FOR JACKSONVILLE RESIDENTS
TO ANY OF ITS SISTER CITIES?
Yes, while leisure trips are not frequent, JSCA has planned trips to its Sister Cities in the past – and more trips will be planned in the future.
HOW DOES A CITY BECOME A "SISTER CITY?"
It is a long process. Since its inception in 1967, JSCA has added only eight Sister Cities. The pace is intentionally slow to ensure both Jacksonville and our potential "twin" city overseas are a good match for each other. The formal process to join two cities – called "twinning" – is often compared to a marriage, as it is a permanent arrangement. Like marriage, the two communities should "date" for awhile via mutual exchanges and communications before agreeing to a permanent relationship. This courtship could easily last one or more years, highlighted by multiple visits by citizen and elected representatives to each other's respective cities. These steps are important to ensure both cities want a long-term relationship. Several factors determine if cities are a good match for each other. The following is a general guide to a good Sister City match for Jacksonville:
First, all of Jacksonville's Sister Cities are port cities. While this is not a formal requirement, years ago local community leaders decided that Jacksonville's port connections are important enough that we should only consider port cities as twins, and this policy has been followed to select every Jacksonville Sister City to date. JSCA is asked to consider a tremendous number of candidate cities, and this criteria helps to winnow the field to the best possible fit.
Second, the candidate city should have approximately the same population as Jacksonville (nearly 1 million people). While there is some flexibility – we could twin with a community as small as a few hundred thousand or as large as a couple of million people – it does not make sense for Jacksonville to twin with a very small town or a huge metropolis. One of the main reasons to twin with a city is to learn best practices and share common educational, cultural and business linkages – and this is best done with communities which can match Jacksonville's breadth of cultural, business and educational offerings.
Third, Jacksonville must demonstrate it has a large and engaged community of citizens with an interest in its potential partner city, as this group of citizens will eventually form a JSCA committee of volunteers to coordinate programming between the two communities. This interest must run beyond one or two passionate individuals; it must be deep enough in Jacksonville's community to sustain a relationship with many individuals over decades.
Fourth, of course, our overseas counterpart city also must agree that Jacksonville is a good fit for them! The only way to really know is for Jacksonville citizens to visit the candidate city, and for residents of the candidate city to make a reciprocal visit (or visits) to Jacksonville.
If the "courtship" goes well, then JSCA's Board of Directors must approve of the twinning, and then JSCA's parent organization – Sister Cities International – must approve of the union. The Mayor of Jacksonville then signs a formal agreement with the Mayor of the overseas city, stating that the two cities have enough in common in terms of educational goals, cultural offerings and business relationships to warrant a permanent relationship. After the Mayoral signings, JSCA is the local nonprofit organization, staffed by volunteers, which creates programs between Jacksonville and each of its Sister cities.
HOW CAN I RECOMMEND THAT A NEW CITY
BECOME A JACKSONVILLE SISTER CITY?
Because Jacksonville recently added two Sister Cities – Curitiba, Brazil and San Juan, Puerto Rico – the organization is now focused on creating new programming for these cities, as well as growing programs with its other Sister Cities. While the timing is not right to add a new Sister City now, JSCA is likely to look to grow in the future, with 2018-2020 the most likely window to consider adding a new Sister City.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN JSCA AND OTHER INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS IN NORTHEAST FLORIDA?
While Jacksonville has many international organizations, JSCA is unique in that it is the only nonprofit organization in which the Mayor signs a formal document directing our involvement with overseas communities. As such, JSCA has acted as the Mayor of Jacksonville's international protocol office and directly assists the mayor with visits from global visitors, particularly those from our Sister and Friendship Cities and their respective countries.
WHAT IS JSCA'S ECONOMIC IMPACT FOR NORTHEAST FLORIDA?
JSCA programs and activities generate between a quarter million and half million dollars of economic impact annually for the Jacksonville area.
DOES JSCA HAVE A PARENT ORGANIZATION?
Yes, JSCA is the local chapter of Sister Cities International based in Washington DC, whose mission is to "promote peace through mutual respect, understanding, & cooperation – one individual, one community at a time." The U.S. Sister Cities program traces its roots to 1956 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower proposed a People-to-People citizen diplomacy initiative. Originally a part of the National League of Cities, SCI became a separate, non-profit corporation in 1967 due to the tremendous growth and popularity of the U.S. program.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO JOIN JSCA?
Individual membership is only $25 per year, and family membership is only $50 per year. Other levels are available: students pay only $10/year; organizations pay $100/year; and companies pay $250/year. JSCA also has a benefactor level at $500/year.
WHO LEADS JSCA?
JSCA is governed by a 25-member board of directors led by a president, who is elected annually along with board officers (executive vice president; treasurer; secretary and comptroller). All board members and officers are volunteers and represent a variety of professional backgrounds: teachers, business professionals, lawyers, engineers, homemakers, entrepreneurs, authors, artists and retirees are just some examples of current and recent JSCA board members. For a complete list of board members and officers, click here.