American Spaces promote critical thinking and thoughtful discussion of issues important to the U.S. relationship with the host country and U.S. global interests. They do this in keeping with the U.S. commitment to a core tenet of democracy: upholding a citizen’s right to free access to information. American Spaces counteract negative perceptions and disinformation about the United States, and they offer opportunities to build bridges of mutual respect and understanding between the host country and the people of the United States. American Spaces should not only be tools of the embassy’s public affairs section, but should serve as platforms for the entire mission to use for public engagement in support of the broad range of U.S. relationships, interests and activities in the host country. In general, through a set of five core programs, American Spaces should:
- Provide accurate, compelling, timely and audience-appropriate information about the United States – its history, culture, society, values and foreign policies.
- Facilitate English language learning through access to English language speakers, resources, computers and internet access.
- Promote higher education study in the United States by providing international students with accurate, comprehensive and current guidance on applying to U.S. colleges and universities.
- Foster people-to-people connections, increase understanding and build respect with host country audiences through cultural programs.
- Support continuing engagement with U.S. government exchange program alumni, connecting them to local audiences through alumni programs in which credible, local voices can share firsthand information about the United States and American values.
Types of American Spaces
There are two main categories of American Spaces: U.S. government-owned and operated American Spaces and partner American Spaces.
U.S. government-owned and operated American Spaces are generally referred to as American Centers. These are facilities that can be located either within or outside a U.S. embassy’s or consulate’s compound, have regular public hours and are staffed by embassy or contracted employees under the direction of the public affairs officer. American Centers offer flexible programming space to conduct a broad range of public engagement activities, such as embassy-sponsored speakers, film screenings, educational advising sessions, hands-on makerspace programs, exhibits and artistic performances. American Centers often serve as the leadership link between the embassy or consulate and a network of partner American Spaces in the country.
Partner American Spaces are located in and operated by local host institutions, with support and direction from a U.S. embassy or consulate. There are two primary models:
- American Corners are partnerships between an embassy’s public affairs section and host country institutions (universities, non-governmental organizations, schools, etc.). The host country partner provides the physical space and staff, while the embassy public affairs section provides staff training, technical support, equipment, technology and multimedia materials about the United States. American Corners provide programming through the five core program types listed above. Some American Corners may have their own “brand,” such as Lincoln Corners, Lincoln Learning Centers, Windows on America and several others. Some are named after famous Americans. Some may have a specialized focus in promoting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) or hands-on collaboration through maker activities.
- Binational Centers, also called BNCs, are private, autonomous local institutions dedicated to promoting mutual understanding between the host country and the United States through the five core programs listed above. Their primary financial support comes from revenues the institution generates from student fees for English classes. Most BNCs are located in Latin America, although there are a few in other regions.