I sit on the Board @ the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Public Diplomacy Initiative and we had a great meeting yesterday in Washington, D.C.
Outside of the impressive resumes of all the folks involved, it was a great conversation. We have a great mission to go after which the Governance committee is finalizing after yesterdays meeting, but will focus upon the need to create an organization that will serve as a Corporation for Public Diplomacy (based roughly upon the remit that the US Corporation for Public Broadcasting has served in their area of expertise).
I was impressed for several reasons. First, this is seen as an effort that will embrace public diplomacy but by leveraging clearly the channels existing in the private sector. Second, I came ready to pitch the ideals of Government as a Platform, govcamps and open data initiatives as enablers. But the pitch was almost immediately accepted as the best way forward. I expected a fight to get the idea embedded, but the agreement with the position was nearly universal and immediate. This is impressive and a sign that the eventual organization will be on good footing. Finally, it has got a great and secure foothold in a document authored by David Abshire, Special Counselor to the US President, President of the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress and co-founder Center for Strategic and International Studies.Abshire is making six policy recommendations in this admittedly draft version of his paper which has a tentative title of, A Public Strategy for Global Engagement. There are two I want our movement to pay close attention to. First, he advocates in the draft to “create and fund an independent grant-making Foundation for International Understanding”. Second, he recommends “enhancing track-two diplomacy”.
Foundation for International Understanding
Abshire calls out “The explosion of digital media technologies is rapidly giving rise to an “always on, always connected” culture around much of the world. To revitalize our nation’s global engagement, we must embrace this new communication paradigm, which is increasingly dominated by “social media” that allow mass collaboration and instantaneous organization with little regard to national borders.” This alignment of interests with the global government 2.0 movement is the opportunity we have been hoping for. If our board is successful in creating this organization we would have much needed help in building the platform that citizens throughout the world could leverage to unlock their own power in economies throughout the world. We have very important decision makers looking to us for ideas on how to structure a new institution that could help shape the platforms upon which new pushes for change could land.
This would be a grant-awarding organization but will also be providing platforms for success. Instead of building the solutions themselves, I saw receptiveness to pushing awards to the creative masses in the world yearning to provide needed connections, apps and ideas. We discussed several things which would have been great outcomes from such an effort, but that the group would not need to DO itself (Meedan, Kiva, Changemakers, etc). In particular the focus was empowering innovators for positive change.
The second vital piece is our support of track-two diplomacy. Basically, this theory admits that the Government itself does not have the resources or foreign credibility to accomplish many of their public diplomacy objectives. Specifically called out, and why I was invited to join the Board, is the need to leverage the channels that are underutilized in the private sector (they also mention channels in the Education sector). I have added to the discussion not just private sector channels, but also civic sector channels including official groups and less structured channels like the multitudes of govcamps, apps contests, churches, unions, activists and others that we could capture the passions from with this effort. I believe we are seeing a shift in how this global community or movement is being perceived and our time is now to take advantage of the orientation. This gives us the much needed moment to scale out our efforts to reach citizens who care from every corner of the world. Track-two diplomacy should, by necessity, include advocacy FROM the people who have traditionally been the object of public diplomacy efforts.
In short, if we build the platform, the world will not only come, but become deeply engaged in building the world the way they each would love to see it.
The call to action: I will be providing the group a short paper describing what we would like to see the organization do from a programmatic perspective. Should we sponsor global app challenges? Should we fund platform building innovations? Should we sponsor massive investment in global govcamps to foster collaboration, innovation and progress? I do have opinions but would love to hear more from the folks in the community about how we should respond? Comment on this blog, DM me (@mattmiszewski) send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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