Building strong emotional ties with your diaspora

Your diaspora can be a hugely positive force in how you build your reputation and amplify your values. We spoke with Diane Edwards, President of Jamaica Promotions Corporation [JAMPRO] and one of our 2022 City Nation Place Awards judges, to understand how they engage the Jamaican diaspora in the economic development of their home nation. 

How do you engage your diaspora to continue supporting and growing the Jamaican economy?

The Jamaican diaspora is an important target market for Jamaica - remittance inflows exceeded US$3.3 billion for 2021. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade has a Diaspora Affairs Department, whose aim is to develop and strengthen the linkages between the Government of Jamaica and the Jamaican Diaspora, with a view to building relationships and encouraging participation in all aspects of national development.  Its primary tool is The Global Jamaica Diaspora Council, which has chapters in several countries and across the globe. The Ministry also hosts a bi-annual Diaspora Conference, which discusses all areas of diaspora engagement, including health, education and business. One local bank, Jamaica National, recently opened a bank in the UK to attract deposits from diaspora members. JAMPRO conducts webinars targeted at the Jamaican diaspora to encourage investment and facilitates specific investment projects led by diaspora members.

What impact do you think a country’s diaspora has on the soft power of the nation?

I think the existence of a diaspora can have a huge impact on a country’s image and soft power. Diasporans can raise awareness of matters of interest to their country of origin and influence voting in their home territories. In 2001, one in 10 voters in the United Kingdom were members of an ethnic minority; by 2050 the number will have risen to one in five. The size of a diaspora will raise the profile of the country of origin, as has happened successfully in the US, UK and Canada with the Jamaican diaspora, where there are many special interest associations covering Jamaican and Caribbean matters.  The economic success and profile of a diaspora will impact on the relations between country of origin and host country. In Jamaica’s case, our diaspora has enhanced Jamaica’s image as a sporting and cultural powerhouse; highly successful Jamaican descendants such as General Colin Powell and the current US Vice President Kamala Harris have opened doors to corridors of power and influence.  

Do you have any advice for another country who are looking to re-think the way they connect with their own diaspora?

A diaspora can be a huge asset, if they are connected to their home country. Emotional ties can impact investment flows and enhance soft power.  Ireland and Israel are two examples of strong diaspora programmes one can emulate. I would suggest creating formal organisations to connect diasporas, recognise their successes and involve them in nation building. Most diasporans will be responsive to outreach progammes and are happy to contribute to their country of origin.

The world of work is changing – both in terms of how we’re heading towards an increasingly remote or hybrid workforce, and in terms of what people are looking for in terms of where they work. How has this impacted your own strategies?

We have implemented remote working strategies, especially during the pandemic, which have been very successful. Some companies report an increase in productivity due to Work At Home methods, especially in the global digital services sector.  We have pivoted to drive the concept of Nearshoring, which has acquired more currency as a result of the pandemic.  Nearshoring is a way to attract more North American companies in diverse sectors, from IT to logistics, so this has become a big focus.  This can also be a way to attract some of our emigrants back to Jamaica, knowing they can work remotely for international companies.

Jamaica’s Minister for Tourism, The Right Honourable Edmund Bartlett, spoke at our last City Nation Place Global conference about building resilience in your place brand. What are you doing at JAMPRO to create greater economic resilience?

We are focused on attracting investment that will build resilience and including sustainability in our current projects. This includes food security, environmental protections and energy diversity.  All major projects have to conduct Environment Impact Assessments, which reference resilience, e.g. mangrove rehabilitation to protect shorelines.  For agricultural projects, we encourage the use of Category 5 Hurricane Resistant greenhouses, for example. We are also working with other government entities on a Green Investment strategy, which will focus on all aspects of greening the economy, including renewable energy, treatment of waste, beach protection, etc.

It’s often said that it’s easier to retain customers than it is to attract new ones. How do you continue to connect with your existing investors to support them once they’ve settled in Jamaica?

You are so right.  It is so gratifying to know that many of our investors, especially in the outsourcing and tourism sectors are in expansion mode.  That is the hallmark of a satisfied investor.  We have a strong aftercare programme under our Project Implementation Department, which conducts regular site visits and meetings with existing investors to gauge their levels of satisfaction, troubleshoot their issues and encourage them to expand.  We also do client satisfaction surveys to get direct feedback from existing clients.

What would be your top tip for a city, nation, or region entering the City Nation Place Awards to give them the best chance of impressing you with their submission?

Wow us with your innovations, creativity and engagement with your audience!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Diane!

The City Nation Place Awards are open for entry! Find out more here.

The Place Brand Portfolio is City Nation Place's searchable portfolio of Awards case studies from the past five years.