public diplomacy

Balancing Relationships – Incorporating Policy into Pedagogy: The Iceberg Below the Tip (Part 7)

This is the sixth of a seven-part series. See parts one, two, threefour,  five, and six for background.

The previous six blogs have described how policy governs almost every action of a PD officer and how a large portion of a PD professional’s energy is consumed on internal alignment of the embassy and Washington in support of policy goals.  The public activity that is visible is the result of solicitations of proposals from Washington, elevator pitches, numerous conversations, meetings, memos, and proposals seeking funding.   Although research papers prepare students for subsequent courses, future diplomats and practitioners of PD need to master information and action memos as well to succeed in their jobs.  Following are some classroom activities which focus on activities PD professionals must complete before a program sees the light of day.

Activity 1 Strategy Memo to Washington in support of US policy.  After working with the instructor to focus on a European or Asian Country, choose from the following list of topics and select the country you will work in as PAO.  To inform your memo, study websites in the links related to your topic:

a. T-TIP (USTR Web Site on Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), US. Mission to EU

b. TPP Trans Pacific Partnership  USTR on TPP,  US Department of State on TPP

c. countering violent extremism (Bureau of Counterterrorism Department of State)

d. English teaching (Check Office of English Language Programs for ideas)

e. environmental programming (choose type: climate change, beach cleanup, reforestation, (google beach cleanup US Embassy, or reforestation US Embassy for examples), recycling (Check  US Embassy Berlin’s Going Green link for many examples of possible  projects for secondary students)


Include in your memo the following steps:

f. Situation/Importance of (country) to policy issue

g. Importance of issue to U.S. policy.

h. Sources of opposition/obstacles to overcome (Students should study opposition websites and articles to learn arguments of the other side.)

i. Values in the country to tap

j. Program activities

k. Budget for Program

l. How success of the program will be measured

Activity 2 Write an Information Memo to your supervisor evaluating an embassy’s  Public Diplomacy

  1. Social media presence
  2. Website Embassy
  3. Twitter feed
  4. Facebook

Include in your memo the following steps:

  1. Description of activity with statistics
  2. Goal of activity
  3. Strengths
  4. Weaknesses
  5. Suggestions for improvement keeping context and institution’s policy in mind.

Activity 3 Reverse Engineer Memo from Visible Program.   Analyze one of the following PD programs in a foreign embassy in the U.S. or a U.S. embassy abroad.   Write the action memo which resulted in these programs.

Examples to look at are the following:

  1. Social Media of institution in country x
  2. Public events of institution (music, dance, exhibit, talk, culinary demonstration, etc.)
  3. Exchanges
  4. Hard copy outreach (letters, pamphlets, posters, banners)

Activity 5 Elevator Pitch to supervisor for funding for program.   Write a 30-second (no more) elevator pitch in support of a PD program of your choice.  Use steps f-k in Activity 1 above.

Activity 6  Attend a program organized by a local think tank, educational or other institution.  Write a one paragraph highlight of a program. Include the following:

  1. Date and place of program
  2. Number and make up of participants
  3. Description of activity with explicit link to policy or mission of the organization (check website for mission statement)
  4. Participant reaction
  5. Short term and probable long-term results
  6. A photo in your highlight which tells the story you are trying to convey

Activity 7 Representational Event.  You are going to attend a large reception in country (you choose).   To prepare for the event, go over the policy points you feel will be discussed and review guidance to defend U.S. policy.   Go through the following steps:

  1. Choose the country where the reception is taking place and analyze the current issues which have U.S. connections
  2. Answer the following: a. What are possible objections participants may have to U.S. policy? b. What are good responses to these objections? c. What are some points you will try to interject into the conversation without prompting?
  3. Do a role play with other students (who have studied the country and issues)

Activity 8 Mission statements.   Analyze the mission statement of an institution of your choosing which organizes programs for the public.   Describe how the activities of the institution support or do not support the mission.   Choose an institution which does not have a published mission statement and write one based on the activities you can see.

Activity 9 Write a Request for Grant Proposals to put on the website of an embassy of your choosing.   Start with a policy goal and related problem the grant will solve.  Write a cover memo for your superiors describing the purpose of the grant and asking that funds be set aside.

Activity 10 Write a memo requesting institutional support for a conference you would like to organize.  Include the purpose of the program including the policy goal to be met, the desired outcomes of the event, the speakers you propose, the format, and a request for funding with a cost breakdown.

Activity 11  (Students are divided into groups of four playing the role of Public Affairs Officer, Economic Counselor, Political Counselor, and Regional Security Officer (RSO).   Buck up your knowledge of country X focusing on your own area (Economic Counselor looks at economic issue, RSO on security issues, etc.)  Clear on a Memorandum already written from the Cultural Affairs Officer (starting with PAO) recommending a large event to be held at the embassy.  You can copy edit as well as clear on content.   The final memo should reflect the input of all participants.

The classroom activities above are routine for public diplomacy professionals.

Students appreciate doing real world type activities which mirror work outside of the university.   This type of activity is useful regardless of the institution one works for whether it be another government or an NGO.  The important point is to tap the values of the institution you serve to justify the activity you propose.   In any PD program, the activity visible to the public is just the tip of the iceberg of supporting memos and conversations which made the activity possible.

Disclaimer: The opinions and characterizations in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect official positions of the United States Government.


About Thomas Miller

Thomas Miller is the Public Diplomacy Fellow at George Washington University on loan from the Department of State.


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