Selection and commentary by PDC members and authoritative experts in the field
Tuesday, January 27th 2015
Giving or writing speeches is a skill that can be improved by absorbing great addresses of the past. Old speeches also open a window on how Americans contended over principle, and by revealing earlier self-understandings of our country, they help us better grasp the origins of our current debates.
Looking at speeches of the 19th century, few equal Carl Schurz’s great 7600-word stemwinder, “True Americanism,” of 1859.
Sunday, January 25th 2015
More and more, discussion of public diplomacy turns to the participation of non-state actors. There is no question that people and organizations with independent means and singular agendas can and do affect the public discourse. They shape perceptions, and they even move governments as well as populations to action. How do such non-governmental players change outcomes? Where do they obtain legitimacy in the eyes of audiences? How do traditional state actors (public diplomacy officers) cooperate, collaborate, or co-opt such non-state entities and individuals? Or is it the other way around?
These are among the questions that Public Diplomacy Council member and American University assistant professor Robert Kelley addresses in his newly released book, Agency Change: Diplomatic Action Beyond the State.
Thursday, January 1st 2015
Okay, here it is. The year 2014’s best in public diplomacy – acts, innovations, programs, ideas, communications, etc.
We asked you, the readers, to nominate the public diplomacy you thought made a positive difference in the year past. We invited you to send your nominations via email (PD10Best@gmail.com), Twitter (#PD10Best), or via the Council’s own Facebook page. We gleefully accepted suggestions from public diplomacy officers, ambassadors and DCM’s, academics, outside experts, journalists, retirees, etc.
You may note that we judged and rewrote the nominations by calling on our own professional expertise, some attention to evidence of impact or measurement, a modicum of humor and humility. The scientific method was not employed –this is not, after all, a serious effort to bestow excellence-based honors, like for example the Oscars.
Anyway, with those disclaimers, here are the best of public diplomacy, 2014 edition:
Thursday, December 11th 2014
Katherine Brown, Executive Director of the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy will discuss its Comprehensive Annual Report at our First Monday Lunch Forum on January 5.
Congress's reauthorization of the panel last year called for the review, which covers the State Department and Broadcasting Board of Governors activities.
The 250-page report lays the groundwork for rational evaluation of more than $1.2 billion spent on PD and broadcasting in Fiscal Year 2014. It gives expenditures for the largest 100 embassy programs and for individual educational exchange programs and broadcasting services -- numbers which I have not seen in this type of compilation before in the public domain. From these numbers, the report derives comparisons like cost per audience member, which brought challenging questions from attendees at today's meeting in the Hart Senate Office Building. Numbers and statistics lend themselves to diverse interpretations, as Executive Director Katherine Brown pointed out.
Nonetheless, this builds on a solid foundation for the renewed Commission, following its October report on Data-Driven Public Diplomacy which called for an emphasis on research and evaluation in public diplomacy and broadcasting. Its findings and recommendations draw on the facts presented. In other words, the Commission is following its own advice. Save the date, and plan to join the debate on January 5.
Sunday, December 7th 2014
He held senior Public Diplomacy positions in South Africa, Nigeria, and Indonesia too, but Bernard J. “Bernie” Lavin (1924-2002) would surely say his greatest contributions in the field of Public Diplomacy were in Korea. During his first tour in Seoul from 1957 to 1967, he focused on Korean education and the rising generation of students. He gave a brief account of one long-running program by the U.S. Information Service -- the introduction of democratic concepts in Korean education -- in his oral history interview with the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST) in 1988.
Organizing a program with comparable impact would be unlikely today. After the Korean War, Korea was open to new social concepts, and such moments are rare in any nation’s history. Then, one officer tended the program for the better part of a decade, giving it continuity and sustained focus. Now, every Public Diplomacy officer tends many portfolios, and the pace of both media and exchanges work is relentless. No post could now spare one of its officers for such intense work with faculty, education institutes, and the Ministry. The funds available to all but the largest posts would now be insufficient for a long-term program that involved so many seminars and meetings. And few posts could now afford printing and distributing 75,000 teacher’s manuals. (An online edition would work, but it's hard to imagine that the years of meetings and seminars -- necessary in a relational society like Korea's -- could be as effective in an online format.) American Public Diplomacy has become too busy and too light for such transformational work.