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Global Nomads Group (GNG)
History and Background

Global Nomads Group was founded in 1998 by four university classmates committed to promoting compassion and understanding around the world.

In the fall of 1997, Jonathan Giesen and Mark Von Sponeck, two peers from the American University of Paris, started talking about the need for a more globally aware future generation; together Jonathan and Mark discussed initial plans for an organization that would link youth together face-to-face to discuss pressing international issues. Soon after, Chris Plutte and David Macquart, also recent American University of Paris graduates, signed on to the mission and joined the team.

All four founders had been profoundly affected by global experiences at an early age and wanted to provide the opportunity for many more young people, even those unable to travel, to see the world in the way they had: Mark had lived around the globe as the son of UN humanitarian coordinator, David had grown up in France as a French-American national, and Jonathan and Chris had been world travelers,.

By 1998, Global Nomads Group had taken shape as a nonprofit organization that would use videoconferencing as a medium for achieving its objective of fostering understanding among youth by letting students virtually travel the world and explore the global community firsthand. The GNG team got its start while living in a shared dorm-style loft in Dallas, TX, where the four founders worked multiple day and night jobs to sustain their fledgling organization.

GNG''s first project came to fruition through the support of Dr. Kevin Hopkins, a Cranial-Facial Plastic Surgeon doing charitable work in developing countries. When he heard about GNG''s mission, he took the team to Honduras on one of his medical visits, where they connected youth there with their counterparts back in the U.S. Inspired by this first successful connection, GNG next went to Jordan to bring students from the Muslim World "into the classroom" of their American peers. The conversation focused on healing the rift between the East and the West and moving past the misperceptions that have stood in the way of a peaceful relationship.

Since then, GNG has connected students through videoconferencing in Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, Chad, China, Egypt, India, Iraq, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Mozambique, Pakistan, Panama, Rwanda, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Uganda, Vietnam, and more.

Alongside these videoconferences, GNG has worked to produce lasting educational documentaries about the issues facing youth and the connections they made during the conferences. GNG directed and produced Project Voice: Voices from Iraq and Iraq Unplugged, based on videoconferences between students in Baghdad and students in Connecticut immediately before and after the U.S. invasion in 2003. GNG also directed and produced the acclaimed Rwanda Alive, a documentary centered on a survivor of the genocide who then spread her message of hope to students of the U.S. through a GNG program in 2004.

In 2005, GNG inaugurated The PULSE, a special program that brings together students from around North America to discuss and debate international issues in a "town-hall" setting. Through dozens of PULSE programs, students in the U.S. and Canada have discussed issues such as the crisis in Darfur, China''s emerging role in the world, access to water, HIV/AIDS, landmines, and disaster relief. These programs have featured distinguished guest speakers Archbishop Desmond Tutu, UN Messenger of Peace and Actor Michael Douglas, Actor and Activist Forest Whitaker, and Actor and Activist Nick Clooney, among others.

As the founders move on to other pursuits, GNG continues to expand and innovate its programming. The founders continue to be "global nomads." Chris Plutte is serving as Country Director for Search for Common Ground in Kigali, Rwanda; Jonathan is currently running a media organization in Cairo, Egypt; Mark built and owns a lodge in Mozambique; and David works as Business Development Manager for Canrim Ventures in Singapore. All are active members of the Global Nomads Group Board of Directors.

Since its founding in 1998, GNG has reached more than one million young people worldwide through its interactive videoconferences, documentaries, and web content. Global Nomads Group hopes to continue to be a leader in international education and to inspire many more youth to be responsibly global citizens

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