Friday, September 25, 2015

U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy releases 2015 annual report, breaks down ECA exchange programs by cost

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The U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy (ACPD) officially released yesterday its “2015 Comprehensive Annual Report on Public Diplomacy & International Broadcasting.” The report itemizes Department of State and Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) public diplomacy and international broadcasting activities, including Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) exchange programs.
The report “includes the cost per participant for 84 academic, professional, youth, cultural and sports programs,” as well as “estimated cost per day in an attempt to factor in program length when comparing program costs” (report pages 17-19). With regards to these cost data, the Commission cautions that “no individual metric can be used to accurately compare the costs of these diverse programs” that are “structured in a variety of ways” and have “varying lengths which can impact the costs significantly.”
The report further includes a long list of recommendations for different State Department and BBG programs and issues, including three recommendations specifically for ECA (p. 30):
  • A thorough review of ECA programs – to be conducted by the Policy Office, such review should assess “those [ECA programs] that do/do not connect with foreign policy objectives,” and “[make] sure that programs are meeting the needs of critical foreign audiences and resonate with them, while also cutting back on duplicative overhead costs.”
  • A focus on U.S. mission needs – the Commission “recommends that ECA continues to serve [U.S.] posts’ various needs depending on their local environments and that Washington-directed ECA activities remain responsive to the field.”
  • Linking Alumni Affairs closely to PD program evaluation – recognizing the value of ECA program alumni “for understanding the long-term impact of exchange programs,” the Commission strongly encourages a more systematic linkage between ECA’s alumni office and the State Department public diplomacy cone’s various research and evaluation activities.
The 2015 ACPD report further includes a number of recommendations for President Obama’s Young Leaders initiatives (pp. 25-26), including the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) and Mandela Washington Fellowship.
Congressionally mandated, the comprehensive report “is based on data collected from the BBG, every public diplomacy Bureau at the State Department, six regional and 11 functional bureaus in the State Department, and Public affairs Sections (PAS) at U.S. embassies worldwide,” according to the Department of State’s website.
An executive summary of the Commission’s 2015 Comprehensive Annual Report is available here.
The full report can be downloaded here

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