Thursday, September 15, 2016

Putting Public Diplomacy in Perspective at the University of Southern California

Posted by Kryste Norman, "Putting Public Diplomacy in Perspective at the University of Southern California," DipNote: U.S. Department of State Official Blog

Foreign Service Officers Jaclyn Cole, Krystle Norman, and Jason Frohnmayer attend the 2016 University of Southern California 2016 Public Diplomacy Center Summer Institute. [USC photo]

After almost six years in the Foreign Service, amidst friends making their return to campus for MBAs and PhDs, I still relished the thought of being back on campus. So when the opportunity arose to attend the intensive, two-week Center on Public Diplomacy Summer Institute (CPDSI) at the University of Southern California (USC), I looked forward to refining my skills and learning more about innovative public diplomacy (PD) strategies. 
As I walked onto USC’s campus for the first time, a feeling of comfort and nostalgia came over me, although I quickly realized that my return to campus would be fairly different. Unlike my graduate school experience -- where discussions concerning foreign policy were purely case study-based -- I now had invaluable field and teaching experience, which helped me appreciate the intersections and discern the tensions between public diplomacy theory and practice. 
USC’s CPDSI brought together mid-level practitioners from all over the world to discuss the evolution, current trends, and future of public diplomacy. Located in the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, the hallways surrounding the institute buzzed with students, researchers, and prospective freshman chatting and testing out the newest gadgets, broadcast equipment, and social media platforms. 
A total of 26 participants from nine countries, representing various foreign ministries, broadcast corporations, and cultural foundations, each brought unique perspectives to the class discussions and group presentations. I was excited to be one of the State Department participants in this prestigious program -- a group of officers working on issues ranging from domestic and international public outreach, international organizations, and PD training, as well as a few PD officers working in the field. The all-star roster of professors, including frequent Foreign Service Institute (FSI) speaker, Professor Nick Cull; CPD Director, Jay Wang; and USC’s Visiting Senior Scholar, Eytan Gilboa, helped us grapple with models and theories that made us rethink and better analyze our PD efforts.
Professor Nick Cull addresses newly arrived participants to the University of Southern California 2016 CPD Summer Institute. [USC Photo]
CPDSI helped me put public diplomacy in perspective, as we went through sessions such as a historical overview of advocacy and listening, the A to Z of digital storytelling, a soulful lecture leadership skills through the lens of jazz, and an unsettling analysis of China and Russia’s public diplomacy campaigns. During our group projects, we took our best shot at creating viral GIFs, short videos, and outreach campaigns to address challenges faced by our classmates. I even made my 3D photo debut while presenting my group’s campaign proposal to promote voter turnout among American citizens living abroad called, #PickyourPOTUS. Every session built off the last, a curriculum efficiently woven together by breakout sessions, digital content, and case studies. CPDSI also underscored the importance of framing, audience analysis, and the use of supplementary data to inform strategic campaigns in public diplomacy. We applied these techniques during thought-provoking role-plays, which included a mock press conference addressing the complexities of a contentious territorial dispute, as well as a nation re-branding exercise. 
After returning from CPDSI, I incorporated best practices from the institute into my course curriculum, redesigning a training session that discussed the synergies of social media and cultural diplomacy. In sharing these lessons learned, my CDPSI experience was not only transformational for me but also beneficial for current and future cohorts of Foreign Service officers preparing for their first PD assignments overseas. 
Going beyond any particular dataset or tool, the CPDSI effectively justified the claim that public diplomacy has never been more critical to advancing foreign policy.  In a rapidly changing world where power is more networked and diffuse, PD practitioners must confront the fact that everything that is local has global implications, and national security challenges must be addressed through advocacy and coalition-building. 
As a part of the generation of social media-savvy diplomats, we must continue to harness America’s soft power in order to facilitate cultural exchange and dialogue as currencies for advancing strategic mission goals and broader U.S. foreign policy objectives.
About the Author: Krystle Norman serves as the Deputy Coordinator of Cultural Affairs Training at the Foreign Service Institute.

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