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AMBIT is an annual intensive transatlantic study programme that enables community leaders from Northern Ireland and the southern Border Counties to engage and build long-term partnerships with similar projects based in the USA.

Now in its 14th year, the programme is funded by the International Fund for Ireland and organised in partnership with the US Consulate in Belfast and currently managed by the Washington Ireland Program.

More than 150 participants have benefitted from the training and networking offered by AMBIT to date and those involved have got to experience community work at grassroots level in some of the best known cities across the United states including; Boston, New York and Washington D.C.

Each year the programme follows a broad theme – influencing policy, leader development, community development, developing the next generation, alternatives to mainstream provision and looking at the juvenile justice system. The AMBIT class is mainly drawn from projects supported through The Fund’s programme and the selected 16 leaders from the community and voluntary sectors explore policy and practice from exemplar projects in the United States.

The learning from this focused study visit is then invested back into participant’s fields of work that are closely aligned with the Fund’s interests. Many past participants have gone on to claim prominent roles in politics, civic life and community development and have gained a considerable base of expertise and influence.

In 2017 the first Ambit Alumni event took place and invitations were extended to all who took part in the Programme over the last 14 years. The event provided an informative opportunity for participants to reconnect, establish new contacts and networks, share experiences, learning and access insight from a notable authority.

Alumni from AMBIT, gathered in Belfast for a special audience with Jake Sullivan, a former security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. Organised by the International Fund for Ireland and the Washington Ireland Program, the event invited more than 160 community, business and civic leaders to explore new approaches to influence policy. Each year AMBIT invites a select group of leaders and influencers to learn from innovative practice in the United States. Pictured are (L-R) Sarah Lorimer, Billy Gamble, International Fund for Ireland Board Member; Jake Sullivan, former adviser to Vice President Joe Biden; and Andrea Myers.

From Ballymena to Brooklyn- My AMBIT Journey

AMBIT participant, Garry McAllister speaks about his experience of the programme.

Garry McAllister is a community Youth Worker with Harryville Partnership Initiative and Carson Project- an IFI funded PYDP project based in Ballymena.

He was an AMBIT participant in 2017 and the study trip offered important insight into community and youth outreach in New York, Washington DC and Philadelphia.

Gary says; “As Youth Workers our lives can be very hectic. We don’t get the chance to sit down and learn from others because we’re often caught up in the harsh realities and issues facing young people. We come up against some of the most difficult situations and see, first hand, the risks facing young people today.

“AMBIT gave me a great opportunity to get out of my own environment, meet people from the other side of the Atlantic and I soon realised that everyone is dealing with similar issues.

“These issues may manifest themselves differently but at the heart of it, our young people and communities are facing the same problems. It was also reassuring to know that we’re not alone in the work we’re doing. Widening relationships and expertise as well as sharing youth work techniques are absolutely vital in the development of our own projects.

“The highlight of the trip for me was meeting a small group of young people in Crown Heights, in Brooklyn. Seeing the confidence and pride they had in the people supporting them is what youth work is all about. Young people progressing through programmes, developing their skillsets and taking an active role within their local communities was amazing and very evident in each city we visited.

“Meeting people in the exact same line of work, right in the firing line where the rubber meets the road and seeing how determined, motivated and passionate they were to make life better for others motivated us all. AMBIT, for me, was one of the greatest experiences of my life and that is down to the people who I had the privilege of working with throughout the trip.

“Regardless of how many times systems fail our young people or institutions fail our communities, it’s important to move forwards and improve the lives of those we work with. 

“AMBIT has the ability to bring people together, encourage and facilitate knowledge sharing and most importantly keep our countries moving forwards.”

For further information about our funding programmes, or for information on how to apply for funding, please contact the person(s) or organisation(s) identifed at the end of the relevant programme summary in the areas of activity section.

Belfast Office

International Fund for Ireland
Seatem House
28-32 Alfred St.

+44 (0)28 9031 2884

Dublin Office

PO Box 2000
Dublin 2

+353 1 408 2130

Copyright © International Fund for Ireland 2021.