Sunday, June 2, 2013

Impact of Public Diplomacy


Professor Philip Seib's post - Judging the impact of public diplomacy - in the Huffington Post was interesting for many reasons. One of them being my recent disenchantment with all the noise around this 'discipline' that, to a certain extent, makes it very simplistic. 

Professor Seib's post was helpful as he was able to point out the core issue accurately. Seib says,
" ... only a late harvest will discover all the fruit of public diplomacy. Student exchange programs, for example, may have greatest effect decades later, when the former students have become government officials"
Referring to the US State Department's biannual Public Diplomacy Impact study, conducted worldwide, Seib demonstrates that PD leads to positive change, help promote favorable perceptions and enhances mutual understanding. Asserting the importance of PD for US foreign policy under the new Secretary of State John Kerry, Seib says,
"In speeches delivered since he became Secretary of State, Kerry has shown he understands the need for foreign policy to have a strong popular base at home as well as in the countries with which the United States is working. He has been in politics a long time and knows the importance of constituency-building."
I think this is very well articulated and can serve to be an effective measure of PD programs. It  helped me gain some clarity into the practice of PD as well. Writing for the CPD Blog, in April I tried to question the very basis of PD for an emerging country like India. Extending Seib's point further, as a professional communicator, I believe it will help if countries try to assess effectiveness of their programs by trying to measure 

1. How much of the debate around a relevant global issue were they able to shape through their own outreach

2. How much of the ecosystem were the programs able to rally around their agenda

This is relevant for India as well as other developing countries that do not exercise significant influence worldwide like the United States does. Such a measurement will also shed light on how much the success of PD programs depend on already entrenched power and control over the global system and media. Think about it!

Suggestions/Critiques welcome.

-- Madhur
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