Question: is it time to rebuild the State Department from scratch?

Is the State Department so full of problems today that it requires rebuilding from scratch if there is to be effective civilian leadership of America’s foreign affairs? From the recent report on the dysfunction within the Africa Bureau (which ignored the failure of intra-agency integration), the militarization of foreign aid and situation with USAID, to the continuing problem of the militarization of public diplomacy and strategic communication underlying the question of who represents America to the world, are we seeing more of the iceberg?

If change is necessary, are the Secretary of State’s authorities and leadership enough to push the necessary changes without creating a paralyzing backlash from within? Must change come from Congress in a modern (and more sweeping) version of the Goldwater-Nichols Act (which would beg the question of who would be the modern Goldwater)?

What are your thoughts?

Related:

Legal Challenges on Gov 2.0

Peter Swire, Obama transition team attorney, discusses Web 2.0 issues specific to the federal government. Focus is on the selection and licensing of products and not nature of the content, but it is still an interesting subject for the Gov 2.0 discussion.

See also:

  • Us Now: A film project about the power of mass collaboration, government and the internet (h/t CB3T)

    In a world in which information is like air, what happens to power? New technologies and a closely related culture of collaboration present radical new models of social organisation. This project brings together leading practitioners and thinkers in this field and asks them to determine the opportunity for government.

Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy is at Odds with Social Media, and What to Do about It: an interview with Matt Armstrong

Over a week ago I discussed public diplomacy with Eric Schwartzman for his OnTheRecordOnline program. The 30 minute interview is now online here.

Public affairs and public diplomacy blogger Matt Armstrong of Armstrong Strategic Insights Group, LLC discusses U.S. Public Diplomacy, repairing America’s image abroad and whether or not the U.S. Department of State will ever be adequately resourced to lead the nation’s global engagement efforts through social media.

Mountain Runner is a blog on the practice and structure of public diplomacy, public affairs and public relations. It is read by senior government officials, practitioners, trainers, academics, and analysts from the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Defense, the United States Congress, related institutions, think tanks, and government agencies around the globe.

Eric has a good index with time codes for the topics covered at the interview website.

One note: at the beginning of the interview, I said “culture” wasn’t a part of “security” in a way that could be construed to mean cultural diplomacy etc is not important to public diplomacy and national security. That is not what I meant and I should have worded my response better in the interview. Cultural diplomacy is certainly very important.

Guest Post: Explaining Why Afghanistan Matters – Whose Job Is It?

By Tom Brouns

As highlighted in this blog and others, the use of “new” and “social” media by military and government organizations as a part of their public communication strategy is undergoing a quiet evolution – or in some cases, revolution.  Where consensus between allies is not a concern, organizations like US Forces – Afghanistan are taking the bull by the horns: their Facebook page amassed 14,000 fans in six weeks, and their 4500+ followers on Twitter are nothing to sneeze at.  In an alliance like NATO, progress has to be a bit more tentative and exploratory.  Regardless of the pace, increasing dialogue and transparency between military organizations and their publics should be seen as a positive thing.

Continue reading “Guest Post: Explaining Why Afghanistan Matters – Whose Job Is It?

Tehran acknowledges the power of Twitter and Public Diplomacy?

An interesting week long seminar advertised by the International Center for Journalists with interesting sponsors [emphasis mine]:

Modern communication course to be held in Tehran

Posted on: 13/07/2009
Basic Journalism
Country
: Iran

Tehran’s Imam Sadiq University will hold a training course on "modern thinking in theories of communication sciences" from August 1 to 7, media news.ir reported. Registration is being accepted on a rolling basis.

The week-long course will feature topics including: Islam and communication sciences, philosophy and communication and political [communication] and public diplomacy.

The course is sponsored by the students’ branch of the Basij force, the Mowlana Foundation, and the Centre for Media Studies and Research in Tehran.

Do you think they’ll cover Twitter or other social media platforms?

Anyone have details on the Mowlana Foundation? @Orbitus and I would like know.

Al-Jazeera: A Culture of Reporting at in Layalina’s Perspectives

Layalina Productions publishes a new monthly “forum by academics and leading practitioners to share their views in order to explore key concepts in the study and practice of public diplomacy and Arab media.” The third author to contribute is Dr. Abderrahim Foukara, the Washington Bureau Chief of Al-Jazeera Network.

In the final analysis, TV per se is neither a bridge-builder nor a bridge-buster. I believe that the battle to close the gap between nations is often fought in the trenches of political action, not by TV programming alone.

The perception issue between American and the Arab worlds will also be determined by what actions Arabs will take not just in the Middle East but also in Washington, where important decisions are made which affect their region and the rest of the world.

The article is worth your time and can be accessed here.

The two prior essays were:

How will you respond to a customer complaint in the age of Social Media?

Recommended reading in the age of now media: How will you respond to a customer complaint in the age of Social Media? at FASTforward. This is a lesson fully applicable to public diplomacy, strategic communication, global engagement, or whatever your tribe uses to describe the struggle for perceptions, relevance, and support. Unlike Las Vegas, what happens in new media doesn’t stay in new media.

Continue reading “How will you respond to a customer complaint in the age of Social Media?

Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants: Do they think differently?

Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, Part II: Do They Really Think Differently? (141kb PDF) by Marc Prensky, 2001:

Digital Natives accustomed to the twitch-speed, multitasking, random-access, graphics-first, active, connected, fun, fantasy, quick-payoff world of their video games, MTV, and Internet are bored by most of today’s education, well meaning as it may be. But worse, the many skills that new technologies have actually enhanced (e.g., parallel processing, graphics awareness, and random access)—which have profound implications for their learning—are almost totally ignored by educators.

The cognitive differences of the Digital Natives cry out for new approaches to education with a better “fit”. And, interestingly enough, it turns out that one of the few structures capable of meeting the Digital Natives’ changing learning needs and requirements is the very video and computer games they so enjoy. This is why “Digital Game-Based Learning” is beginning to emerge and thrive. …

Again and again it’s the same simple story. Practice—time spent on learning—works. Kid’s don’t like to practice. Games capture their attention and make it happen. And of course they must be practicing the right things, so design is important.

The US military, which has a quarter of a million 18-year-olds to educate every year, is a big believer in learning games as a way to reach their Digital Natives. They know their volunteers expect this: “If we don’t do things that way, they’re not going to want to be in our environment”

Interesting reading on neuroplasticity.

(h/t @ramblemuse)

Public Diplomacy: Books, Articles, Websites #46

Courtesy of Bruce Gregory, Professor of Media and Public Affairs, George Washington University:

July 7, 2009
Intended for teachers of public diplomacy and related courses, here is an update on resources that may be of general interest.  Suggestions for future updates are welcome. 
Bruce Gregory
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Media and Public Affairs
George Washington University

Continue reading “Public Diplomacy: Books, Articles, Websites #46

NATO Public Diplomacy: Six Colors / Six Couleurs

imageNATO Public Diplomacy is a bit different than US public diplomacy. Unlike US public diplomacy which is (quaintly) aimed exclusively foreign publics, NATO public diplomacy is aimed chiefly at member countries and secondarily at partner countries. From the American perspective of audience-based tactics, this seems to be more like public affairs but the methodology is certainly more like public diplomacy.

Earlier this year Dr. Stefanie Babst, the NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy Strategy, stated the key principles to govern NATO “new public diplomacy” that will sound very familiar to any public diplomat (full speech is here, PDF:

1. Public diplomacy is about listening. …
2. Public diplomacy must be connected to policy. …
3. Public diplomacy must be credible to be effective. …
4. Public Diplomacy is not always about you. …
5. Public Diplomacy needs to respond to the challenges of the Web 2.0 world.

In this spirit she suggests that NATO public diplomacy might actually want to connect directly with a broad audience.

NATO should be more courageous in using digital tools to directly interact with the public. Why not host a permanent blog on the NATO website? Why not widen the debate about NATO’s new Strategic Concept beyond the ‘usual suspects’ and try to obtain new thinking through, for instance, online discussions with citizens on specific aspects of NATO’s future role? Let us hope that when Allies discuss NATO’s future strategic course at the forthcoming Summit in Strasbourg and Kehl, they will also take a moment to sign up to a 21st century public diplomacy approach.

I couldn’t agree more.

View the Democracy Video Challenge winners

Last year the State Department embarked on an ambitious mission of encouraging others to describe what democracy meant to them. This was a smart and creative use of social media to amplify and empower trusted and authentic voices to speak about subjects that matter to them. Let’s hope State continues the concept…

Six winners were selected from the 900 people from nearly 100 countries submitted videos in the Democracy Video Challenge. View all of the winning videos here. All of the winners are superb, but my favorite is below.

Continue reading “View the Democracy Video Challenge winners

Broadband hits Africa

From Foreign Policy, a map showing increased connectivity and the importance of investing in Information & Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) in Africa.

As interconnectivity between African countries increases, economic benefits are expected, especially in Kenya, which has a fast developing IT sector. Other potential impacts include education and access to media.

Increased interconnectivity also means increased importance of online media.

See also this 2007 global map by Alcatel-Lucent (5.6mb PDF).

Enhancing the Digital Native / Immigrant taxonomy

When discussing the use and implications of both “new media” and its convergence with “old media” (into “Now Media”), the conversation frequently includes references to two groups, the Digital Native and the Digital Immigrant. This two-tier system inadequately describes reality so I propose a four-tier system that begins with the commonly accepted native-immigrant models and adds two more.

Continue reading “Enhancing the Digital Native / Immigrant taxonomy

Are you monitoring the Now Media environment?

Ah, the days when your public affairs or public relations department could sit back and watch the wire for potentially adverse headlines that you could formulate a response after several meetings over the next day. The world isn’t so simple or, more to the point, so slow.

Simply put, you can’t ignore new media just like you can’t ignore old media as both intermingle in each other’s world amplifying “news” (quotes intentional), creating reach as information shoots around the world through radio (even on the back of motorcycle), television, in print, SMS, let alone Twitter. That same information is persistent, hanging around and available on YouTube and through Google.

Continue reading “Are you monitoring the Now Media environment?