Turning Jamaica’s Brain Drain into Brain Gain

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Geneive Brown Metzger is passionate about Jamaica and wants the rest of the country’s diaspora to feel the same. Rather than complain about Jamaica’s brain drain, she is leveraging the diaspora’s human capital wealth in support of the country’s development. “The challenge is how to repatriate those skills on a short term basis. We are not going to tell everyone to move back home, because that’s probably unrealistic. But if you are going to live in England or in North America, how can you give back?”

She believes that the future is in creating “strategic opportunities for professionals and other to give back to Jamaica in a very organized and systematic way.” Beyond the approximately $2 Billion in remittances that diaspora members send each year, she believes that they play a vital role in economic development and foreign direct investment in the island nation.

“The disapora is critically important to Jamaica in a variety of ways,” Ms. Brown Metzger told Kingsley Aikins–the the founder of the Dublin-based consultancy, Diaspora Matters, and the former CEO & President of The Worldwide Ireland Funds–during a 2011 interview with him. Until recently, Ms. Brown Metzger served as the New York Consul General of Jamaica. She has dedicated herself to engaging the diaspora, saying that the Jamaican government wants to involve their diaspora in the national agenda. As Jamaica’s New York Consul General, she represented the largest concentration of Jamaicans in the diaspora and covered a jurisdiction of thirty-three states, Puerto Rico and Bermuda.

Speaking with Mr. Aikins, she stressed the great influence that the diaspora has in shaping global perceptions of Jamaica.”The way we behave in the United States and the other places we live outside of our home country affects Jamaica’s image,” she said. “We also have an impact on policies and politics. We influence our friends and relatives that live back home, in terms of their opinions on political policy and social economic policy.”

She invited the consul generals of a variety of countries including India, China, Ireland, the Dominican Republic, and Israel to speak about their experiences engaging their diaspora community in a lecture series she developed called the Critical Conversations Series: From Immigrant Group to Diaspora Movement Wanting in order to build and share knowledge about best practices exist across diaspora communities. “It’s amazing how much we have in common, and therefore how much we can learn from each other,” she said.

Engaging the American-born diaspora youth is one of her greatest priorities. She encourages members of the second-generation to apply for the Jamaican citizenship to which they are entitled. She also initiated a study abroad program to Jamaica with the City University of New York, saying “I hope that it will entice a lot Caribbean and of course Jamaican students to go back home and really begin to develop an affinity with their homeland as young people.” She envisions that as these students age, their bond with Jamaica will “redound into an ongoing, lifetime support of the country.”

The Consul General also excelled  in driving investment to Jamaica in mining, waste management, and housing; fostering collaboration between Jamaica and the US in track and field; advancing Jamaica/US academic exchange; promoting Jamaican Jewry; and attracting philanthropic support for social causes.

Up until her appointment as Consul General in February 2008, Mrs. Brown Metzger was a public relations and marketing consultant–-working in that industry for 28 years in the United States.  The firm she founded in 1984, Geneive Brown Associates, merged with worldwide PR agency Ruder Finn in 1990, and she went on to establish and head the Emerging Markets and Caribbean Business division.

She is a leader in the Caribbean American community where, for more than three decades, she promoted Caribbean-U.S. relations and economic development.  Ms. Brown Metzger is a founding member of the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CACCI), established in 1985, and she held senior positions at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union. She also has served on advisory committees on the state and local levels, including Governor Mario Cuomo Committee on Black Affairs and the New York City Chancellor’s Committee on Creole Students.

She has been featured in The New York Times, on FOX New York television, Black Entertainment Television (BET), and Upscale magazine and has received many honours for her work and community service, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce. The Consul General received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws Degree from the University of Technology, Jamaica. Mrs. Brown Metzger holds BA from the CUNY and an MA from Columbia University.