Frequently Asked Questions
How Is a Sister City Selected?
Establishing a Sister City relationship takes several years. Here's how it's done.
The City of Charlottesville is a member of Sister Cities International, which creates relationships based on cultural, educational, information, and trade exchanges, creating lifelong friendships that provide prosperity and peace through person-to-person “citizen diplomacy.”
How does the Charlottesville Sister Cities Commission choose a Sister City?
We choose a Sister City much the same way people choose a friend: First, we get “introduced” through citizen suggestions or requests from a city itself. Then, we look for common interests, a mutual desire to connect, ease of communication, the chance of visiting each other, and the likelihood that the bond will last a long time. In particular, we want to be sure the two cities can share in cultural, educational, medical, governmental, economic, humanitarian, or other activities.
What is the Sister City proposal process?
The Sister City process occurs in stages. First, a group of interested citizens (an “Advocate Group”) asks to make a brief presentation to the Commission about the proposed Sister City relationship. If the Commission approves, it invites the Advocate Group to submit a written proposal (proposal guidelines appear at the end of this document). Based on that proposal, the Commission will decide whether to take the first step; establishing a “Friendship City” relationship between the cities. After a Friendship period of three years or more, the Commission chooses whether to propose a Sister Cities relationship for City Council’s approval. Finally, City Council must approve the Sister Cities relationship. If Council denies the request, the Commission then chooses whether to continue the Friendship with that city. If Council approves, then proclamations are issued, documents are signed, and exchanges begin.
Who can propose a Sister City?
Any area resident or group can propose a Sister City. The process requires a lot of information gathering, so usually a group of citizens, an organization, a government body, or some combination will work together throughout the proposal process. All such proposals are held to the same standards, which we discuss later in that the end of this document.
How do area citizens introduce the Commission to a possible Sister City?
Interested citizens convene an Advocate Group—which is simply a group of people interested in working together to propose a Sister City relationship.
The Advocate Group contacts officials in the proposed Sister City to see if the city is interested in the relationship.
An optional—as well as enjoyable and helpful—step is for members of the group to visit the proposed city (at the group members’ expense).
The Advocate Group researches the city from the Sister Cities perspective and asks to make a presentation to the Commission. This presentation may not be longer than seven minutes.
What should a Sister Cities Commission presentation include?
The presentation is the Advocate Group’s chance to make a great first impression on behalf of their proposed Sister City. Because long-term community support is critical to Sister Cities’ success, we require that at least three supporters attend the presentation. It is critical that the proposal not exceed seven minutes. A presentation should include the following information:
What does the new city committee’s Sister City presentation include?
Overview of the compatibility between the Friendship Cities and their potential for a successful Sister City relationship.
Demonstration that sufficient volunteers are willing to take responsibility for managing relationship and assisting in fundraising
Letters of support from local businesses, organizations, and institutions
Proposal for exchanges/programs/activities to be executed over the next two years by the new city’s committee including a budget for these activities
What does the Sister Cities Commission do once it hears a presentation?
If the Commission chooses to go forward, it contacts Sister Cities International to ask if there are any impediments to “Sistering” with that city. If another U.S. city has a Sister City relationship with the proposed city, the Commission must determine if the existing U.S. city is willing to enter into a cooperative agreement with Charlottesville to share the same international Sister.
If there are no impediments, the Commission then invites the Advocate Group to submit a full proposal.
What does a full proposal contain?
VIew the Guidelines for preparing a proposal here. In brief, here is what a proposal should contain:
Ways in which the proposed city meets key criteria for selection
A list of sufficient volunteers willing to take responsibility for establishing a relationship
The names of and contact information for individuals, organizations, and institutions that support the partnership
A stated commitment from the Advocate Group that it is willing to raise funds to maintain the partnership
A stated commitment from the Advocate Group to maintain active exchanges with the proposed city long term
The names of and contact information for at least one supporter in the U.S. Department of State and one at any embassy or consulate of the country where the proposed sister city is located.
What happens after the proposal is submitted?
The Commission votes on whether to pursue the Sister Cities relationship.
If the vote is no, the Commission writes a letter to the Advocate Group explaining why and indicating what, if anything, could change its vote should the group choose to resubmit (e.g., adding more information about some aspect of the proposal, recruiting a larger number of citizens expressing support or a making a funding commitment). The Advocate Group may revise its proposal and resubmit without beginning the full process over again.
If the vote is yes, the Commission submits its recommendation to City Council in writing. The city manager is asked to send an official information packet to the proposed city’s mayor along with a letter asking to establish a Friendship City relationship.
What is a “Friendship City”?
The Friendship City relationship is a three-year trial run for the Sister Cities relationship. During this trial period, the cities get to know each other and determine whether they want to enter into the long-term Sister Cities relationship.
If the proposed city’s mayor agrees, the Commission votes to approve the Friendship City and appoints a new City Committee charged with developing and maintaining the new relationship.
During the trial period, representatives from each city must make at least one exploratory visit to the other city—ideally including at least one elected official.
After three years or longer, the new city’s committee can make a formal presentation to the Commission recommending the establishment of a new Sister City. If the Commission approves, it would then seek City Council’s permission to enter into the new Sister City relationship using the committee’s presentation. If it does not approve, it must then vote on whether to maintain the Friendship City arrangement. Similarly, if Council does not approve the Commission’s request, it must then vote to either continue as Friendship Cities or end the relationship. (Of course, the other city might make the decision not to continue the Friendship relationship with Charlottesville.)
What happens once City Council approves a new Sister City relationship?
First, the Council adopts a resolution declaring its intent to sister with the proposed city. That city’s governing body adopts a similar resolution of intent.
Then, during an official visit in either city, the mayor or top elected official available from each city signs the Sister City agreement. The Commission strongly encourages reciprocal visits by official delegations including one elected official within one year of signing.
All official documents are written in English and in the language of the counterpart community. Both communities should receive a signed set of the official documents in both languages for their records. One copy of all official letters and resolutions should be sent to Sister Cities International, the U.S. Embassy in the Sister City’s country, and the partner country’s embassy in the United States.
Our Sister Cities Commission is your Sister Cities Commission. Here's more about it.
Can the Charlottesville Sister Cities Commission arrange for a student exchange?
CSSC does not organize student exchange programs but can assist and advise families interested in such programs.
Can I host a visitor from one of our Sister Cities?
Our visitors from abroad enjoy staying in local residents' homes. Please contact us if you would like us to keep you in mind for when these opportunities arise. Typically, a visit lasts one week. We usually coordinate sightseeing and other events; of course, you would be welcome to join or to add some of your own.
Are CSSC grants available only to Charlottesville residents?
No. Residents and groups from outside the City of Charlottesville are eligible to apply for CSSC grants. Successful grants are those that benefit city residents, however. Note: Nonprofits, schools, and businesses are also eligible.
I have an idea for a grant. Can someone on the Sister Cities Commission help me with my proposal?