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Category Archives: DDC News

BlueDot Founder & DDC Board Member sits on Digital Diplomacy panel at French Embassy

By Maureen Couch 

Moira Whelan, BlueDot Founding Partner, was featured on a panel for the 2019 French Series hosted by the Embassy of France on Tuesday, May 21st. This year’s panel series, an annual event at the embassy, addressed the matter of failing diplomatic exclusivity of international communications.

The French Embassy promoted the panel series indicating that social media has become a major player in funneling information to – and from – the public, “allowing non-state actors to become involved in the communication between states.” Rather than avoiding the inevitable, the panel spoke on how foreign policy can welcome and, in turn, help shape the future of diplomacy as it evolves.

“One of the mistakes we are making is taking the antiquated rules and applying it to the current diplomacy. That people to people opportunity is huge and in the end will help salvage the relationship,” said Whelan on the panel series.

Including Whelan, the panel co-featured Priya Doshi, a professorial lecturer of Public Relations at American University School of Communication, and James Barbour, the Former Head of the Press and Public Diplomacy Section of the Delegation of the European Union. The panel was moderated by John Hudson, National Security Reporter at The Washington Post.

To learn more about the French Series, visit the French Embassy site or take a look at tweets by the Digital Diplomacy Coalition and the French Embassy.


 

This post originally appeared on the BlueDot website

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#DiplomacyUnited for International Women’s Day 2019

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For International Women’s Day in 2019, a group of digital diplomats and allies tried something new: they shared a Twitter thread, a coordinated campaign on Facebook and Instagram, and a common objective.

The informal group, a legacy of the first international digital diplomacy conference held in Stockholm in 2014, has long recognized the importance of fostering an environment in which issues of global importance could be discussed on-line. Over the years, the group has shared ideas, hashtags and best practices.

On March 8th, they decided to take their collaboration public. Eight embassies in Washington, DC (@ukinusa, @euintheus, @SwedeninUSA, @swissembassyUSA, @italyinUS, @spainintheUSA, @canembUSA) together with offices in the US government (@genderatstate), the Freedom Forum Institute’s NewseumED (@NewseumED), and the Digital Diplomacy Coalition (@digidiplomats), used their social media presence to bring attention to the harassment of women on-line. They started with a Twitter thread stating their common objective and sharing facts. They also shared the content on Facebook and Instagram.

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The effort was even turned into a Twitter Moment!

Discussion of global issues has grown more vibrant over the years and many of the the people with their fingers on the keyboard have been instrumental in shaping that environment. There is growing evidence that women are less and less safe participating in civil discourse online, so it is imperative that institutions do their part to keep them engaged. International Women’s Day is the perfect opportunity to send this unified message.

Like all digital conversations, digital diplomats hope to see it grow and for new ideas to emerge from the effort, and we urge others to join us!

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SXSW 2019 | Digital Diplomacy, GovTech and Panels To Watch For

It’s that time of year! SXSW 2019 is about to kick off and we wanted to share a few digital diplomacy, govtech and related events and sessions you might want to check out if you’re in Austin.

 


 

March 8th

International Women’s Day at EU@SXSW
The European Union is pleased to partner with UN Women to be the official host of SXSW’s International Women’s Day celebration.
EU@SXSW | Palm Door on 6th
2:00PM–10:30PM

International Models for Local Communities
Hear how reciprocal exchanges with professionals from Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia have facilitated international partnerships with communities abroad, and reinforces the impact that local initiatives have on the global stage. This session is part of the Focus15 block centered around the topic Powering Local Change through Global Collaboration, with an emphasis on government management.
Hilton Austin Downtown, Room 400-402
4:15PM-4:30PM

 

March 9th

Interactive EU Experience
Check out some of the most innovative EU-funded projects tackling the challenge of disinformation and supporting the discovery of new European musical artists. See whether you can spot deep fake images and videos at our disinformation wall and listen to some of the best European music on offer under our sound domes!
EU@SXSW | Palm Door on 6th
11:00AM-5:00PM

Tech and Populism at a Crossroads: A New Era?
The balkanization and proliferation of information and political views is driven by constant innovation and evolution of digital communications and technology platforms, including social media. With populism at a crossroads, how will technology disrupt the coming years of political dialogue, and how should policymakers respond?
Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon B
11:00AM-Noon

Combatting Disinformation & the European Elections
Whilst the problem of disinformation is anything but new, the internet, and social media in particular, has shifted its spread into high gear. Following the elections on both sides of the Atlantic, disinformation has been widely debated both in the US and in Europe. Our panelists will discuss the challenges the EU is facing in the run-up to the May 2019 European elections and the efforts of its institutions to address them.
EU@SXSW | Palm Door on 6th
Noon-1:00PM

 

March 10th

The Dark Side of Tech: Surveillance and Propaganda
For repressive regimes, frontier technology can mean new ways to gain and maintain power. Will big data and artificial intelligence liberate or surveil? Join the Human Rights Foundation, Uighur linguist and police state survivor Tahir Imin, Buzzfeed News tech editor Megha Rajagopalan, and foreign affairs reporter Melissa Chan for a conversation on how super apps, facial recognition, movement analysis, DNA mapping, fake video, and other cutting-edge technologies are used to control, surveil, and promote state propaganda in China – and what that means for the rest of the world.
The LINE, Topaz Ballroom 1-2-3
12:30PM-1:30PM

EU-US Relations: The State of Play
Sharing values and interests, the EU and the US have multiple political and economic ties and have remained close allies for almost seventy years. This transatlantic partnership – arguably the most important bilateral relationship in the world – has had its highs and lows. What is the current state of play? How important is the successful cooperation of the two superpowers for them and for the global order?
EU@SXSW | Palm Door on 6th
1:00PM-2:00PM

Input Local. Output Global. City Innovation Mayoral Meet Up
Local ingenuity leads to global progress. Innovation in the government and civic sector continues to grow, local leaders still face many challenges especially in the midst of round-the-clock responsibilities within their communities. Meet America’s most innovative mayors who are using technology and innovation to meet their biggest challenges. Network, share, and engage with local leaders changing the face of cities.
Fairmont Poppy, Floor 4
3:30PM-4:30PM

Tech4Good – presented by France
Conversation about the French Tech4Good: France and Austin as iconic ecosystems of creativity and innovation for social impact. Post-panel discussion will feature a special invitation-only networking cocktail and demos from French start-ups. At 8:00pm Paris-based indie rock band Stuck in the Sound performs live on stage.
EU@SXSW | Palm Door on 6th
5:00PM-10:30PM

Does Government Matter in a Digital World?
The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that 543 terabits of data are flowing across borders every second. If knowledge is power and data is now the most valuable commodity on the planet, who has it? Who uses it? Who controls it? How? And where does government fit into this datascape? Do governments have any power or purpose left, or, like one of those old Western towns that are only facades, are we living in a facsimile of civic governance?
Hilton Austin Downtown, Room 400-402
5:00PM-5:15PM

 

March 11th

Breaking Free from Global Disinformation
Disinformation, amplification and intimidation are widely used to drown out reliable journalistic reporting. Predators of press freedoms are building a tracked and censored internet, while blocking external content. Democracies are undermined while despotic regimes develop intricate propaganda machines that silence dissent, locally and globally. Solutions are badly needed to strengthen journalism & the integrity of public debate. That’s why Reporters Without Borders has launched a global appeal to mobilize governments and those committed to defending a free and pluralistic public space, essential for democracy. Seventy years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a Commission of 25 influencers from 18 countries has published an International Declaration on Information and Democracy to establish basic principles for information in the digital age – “a common good of humankind.”
The LINE, Onyx Ballroom 1
2:00PM-3:00PM

Bad Guys Attacking Elections: It’s Not Just the US
We know bad guys are continuing to use social media tools to exploit divisions and undermine elections in the US. We have seen their handiwork in France, Mexico, Germany and other places. Between now and SXSW we will see elections not just in the United States but in Brazil and Georgia where on-line manipulation of opinion is already a big problem. When we meet, elections in Indonesia, India and Europe will be just around the corner. Panelists will talk about where things stand, explore what’s working and what’s not from the perspective of the world’s largest social media platform, the media, and a think tank working to create a network of experts to combat the issue. We’ll look at ways to close the information gap among government, tech, and media on these collective challenges.
Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon A
12:30PM-1:30PM

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Engaging a Connected World: Q&A with Nancy Groves, UN Head of Social Media

For most in the international affairs and global development fields, the month of September marks an annual milestone — the United Nations General Assembly. While this is a moment when eyes are focused on the UN, the work and impact of the UN system is year-round — and so is their communications effort.

From global crisis to political shifts, the UN is faced with many challenges. Engaging the world around them, however, is an area where the UN has excelled. Adapting to technology, diving into new platforms and working to ensure the UN connects with the world’s people is no easy task, but the organization has stood out as a leader in digital communications.

Recently, I spoke with Nancy Groves, head of the social media team at the United Nations, about the impact of social media and technology on public engagement efforts and how these tools contribute to the mission and success of the UN.

What role does social media play in advancing the UN’s critical mission?

Nancy Groves: We know people are spending increasing amounts of time on social media platforms discussing UN issues so it’s important that we are contributing to these conversations. Sometimes we may put out materials we hope people will share related to campaigns on climate action, peacekeeping, human rights or other priority issues. Other times we correct misunderstandings about the UN’s work. For example, so much of what is reported as “UN” decisions are actually the decisions of our 193 member countries, or more often the decision of the 15 countries on the Security Council. We find it’s really useful to remind people how the UN works.

With so many individual member countries and diverse international priorities, how does the UN social media team work to ensure a strong presence that reflects the work of the UN while also truly engaging the people of the world?

NG: We try to be very selective in what we post and only share content that is timely and of interest to the widest possible audience. This is a challenge when the UN works on so many important issues and sometimes there is pressure to post something that’s only of interest to a small subset of people — or even one country. Social media is, however, an important tool for transparency so letting people understand how the UN works is very key. We try to create “explainer” content or materials that provide background context in an easy to understand way. We also use visuals as much as we can since photos and videos can show so much more than text.

How has social media changed the UN General Assembly meetings? What does this mean in practice?

NG: For one thing, so many countries are now tweeting their own content. They’re posting what is happening in negotiations, their country’s position in negotiations or votes and then they are showing what it’s like to work at the UN representing their country. They host their own Q&A sessions and create their own video recaps. It means that if you want to find out what’s going on at the UN, there is really a huge amount of information out there now. While the UN is a popular tourist destination in places where we have major offices (New York, Geneva, Nairobi and Vienna), we realize that most people will never have a chance to walk through the doors of the UN in person. Social media can be a virtual door and we hope that makes it more relatable in many ways.

Not all of the world is connected. Does the UN’s use of social media take this into account and find other creative or technical ways to engage wider audiences?

NG: We work in a big department made up of many information professionals working in over 60 countries, so we have no shortage of experts on hand to advise us on how content may play in their country and region. There are colleagues who also still produce more traditional types of content like radio programs and print materials. For social media, we are discussing ways to better target our content to specific audiences. For example, we would like to start creating content specifically for women who speak Kiswahili and are under the age of 35. That’s just one example. At some point, the end goal is to make sure all our content is relatable to everyone, everywhere. That’s truly impossible of course especially since our team is still relatively small. We have two people working on content for each of our 9 languages. Others contribute to content production, but just having two people per language means we are never short on work.

In addition to social media, what has the UN been doing to explore working with AR or VR? Other developing spaces? And, what’s next for UN social media?

NG: Over the past few years many parts of the UN System have produced some very compelling VR films documenting how the UN works and how issues on the UN agenda affect people around the world. For example, the UN Population Fund produced a film on what it’s like to give birth in a crisis zone. Earlier this year, celebrating 70 years of UN Peacekeeping, we produced a special film in partnership with Time magazine. People who visited the UN were able to “see” for themselves what it is like to work on UN Peacekeeping missions, the sacrifices people make to serve where others often don’t want to (or can’t) go and also the impact of UN Peacekeeping.

Apart from the communications role, colleagues at the International Criminal Court are using it to help witnesses prepare for their court appearances. They’ll be able to feel what it’s like to take questions, hear the sounds of the court, etc. That way, they’ll feel more comfortable and hopefully be able to better focus on telling their important stories.

I’m sure there are many more examples of how these emerging technologies can be used for good all across the UN family.

When it comes to social media, we are talking about ways to use bots to answer common questions and to spread important campaign materials. We haven’t had a chance to figure out how to we could best use messenger apps at scale — or if we should. We always are trying to keep an eye on new platforms.


Scott Nolan Smith is a founder and board member of the Digital Diplomacy Coalition. He is also a Vice President at Clyde Group and consultant to globally minded organizations and governments. He previously served as head of digital at the British Embassy in Washington.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. This post originally appeared on the Clyde Group Medium publication.

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Speaking EU to Americans: Q&A with Maria Belovas, Spokesperson for the EU Delegation in Washington

Washington is the quintessential diplomatic town, home to embassies representing nearly every country in the world and most international organizations — including the European Union.

The EU Delegation in Washington represents the interests of the European Union in the United States, in conjunction with the embassies of the 28 member nations. It’s a unique diplomatic entity and one which requires a distinctive approach to public diplomacy communications.

Recently, I spoke with the new counselor overseeing press and public diplomacy for the delegation, Maria Belovas. While she has only recently taken up her new post — she began her new position last month — she comes to D.C. having served as head of communications for the Estonian Foreign ministry and as a diplomat in the Estonian foreign service, with previous assignments in Lisbon, Washington and at headquarters in Tallinn.

Maria provides insights into public diplomacy at an international organization and how technology continues to impact diplomatic engagement — exploring the intersections of communication, international relations and public interest.

What are you most excited about in your new role? How does it feel to be back in Washington?

Maria Belovas: I was in the Estonian Foreign Service for 10 years, three of which I served in the Estonian Embassy in Washington. Now I am a diplomat for the European Union in Washington and it is good to be back and moving forward at the same time. It is an interesting time to be working on the relationship between the United States and the European Union. I’m excited about the prospect of putting myself to the test here, as a diplomat, as a European.

How is public diplomacy different for international organizations than for countries?

MB: In essence, it isn’t. The general idea of public diplomacy is to reach out to local audiences, to explain and promote your views, expand your networks and gain friends — whether you are representing a country or a union of countries.

What are the challenges in equally representing the interests of the EU and 28 diverse member states?

MB: When you represent the EU, you represent the member states. The EU exists because of the member states and at the end of the day they decide the direction of the EU. The challenge is how we coordinate and work together in an optimal way — and the excellent cooperation among member states and the EU here in Washington is actually often singled out.

How has social media changed your role and function in diplomacy?

MB: Digital evolution has been quietly changing the way we communicate, and diplomacy has not been left untouched. 10 years ago, social media was considered a niche project for the junior staff to fiddle with. Today, not even the most conservative of diplomats can ignore the necessity of being social media literate. With a near constant overflow of information, we are all fighting for attention — using a wide range of tools to get through is key.

What do you expect an average day in your position will look like?

MB: I have a great team of people around me, so the expectations are way above average every day. The EU Delegation’s press and public diplomacy efforts cover a lot of ground — everything from traditional media relations, digital communications strategies, to events, speeches, culture and much more. I look forward to diving in.


Scott Nolan Smith is a founder and board member of the Digital Diplomacy Coalition. He is also a Vice President at Clyde Group and consultant to globally minded organizations and governments. He previously served as head of digital at the British Embassy in Washington.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. This post originally appeared on the Clyde Group Medium publication.

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A peek inside day-to-day diplomacy

Diplomacy has often been seen as a behind-closed-doors practice taking place in stuffy meeting rooms and made up of discussions that often result in nebulous outcomes.

Enter public diplomacy — the practice of leveraging diplomatic encounters at the local public level to better engage with populations and inform larger audiences. Often synonymous with events or cultural activities, the aim is to offer tailored diplomatic efforts in addition to what is often seen as traditional state-to-state diplomacy.

Over time, this definition of public diplomacy has broadened. No longer does it operate almost parallel to traditional statecraft, instead it works in more direct support of diplomatic objectives. Public diplomacy still focuses on delivering a softer side of diplomacy — events, trade shows, press engagement and the like to more effectively leverage soft power.

The coining of the term ‘digital diplomacy’ however, has allowed public diplomacy to further expand in definition and intention. While not exclusive to public diplomacy, the adoption of digital diplomacy has changed the way diplomats and diplomatic actors engage with the world around them. More tools equate to more means of engagement, and technology has been a catalyst for change within foreign ministries and embassies.

Technology is enabling diplomacy to be more transparent, engaging and accessible. No longer does public diplomacy merely apply to cultural events, trade functions or promotional exercises. Today, diplomats are opening the doors on the diplomatic process by providing views into their day-to-day activities.

This began with ambassadors tweeting about their daily functions, or embassies posting details on policy views or sharing outcomes from discussions. This was a step towards openness and transparency, but many of the functions of daily diplomacy remain elusive. This is shifting yet again.

The public diplomacy team at the Swiss Embassy in Washington, DC has recently been throwing the doors open on their diplomats’ daily lives. Leveraging Instagram stories, the embassy has been sharing what a week in the life of individual teams at the embassy looks like — and not just the public diplomacy or press teams. Instead, they have also focused on the political unit, the Ambassador’s staff and the defense/military teams.

The stories take viewers through the exciting and the mundane. Highlighting the work, not just the flash, and making the it accessible to an audience that typically would only see or hear about diplomatic events or outcomes but not have an eye on the process.

This ongoing shift in diplomacy has changed who participates in the overall process, giving more access to the public. Being more open enables diplomats and diplomatic posts to be more engaging. The added transparency not only allows citizens back at home to see what their diplomats are doing and for local audiences in host nations to experience what diplomats are bringing to their countries, but enables both audiences to comment, share and express their views. By nature, leveraging social digital tools creates the ability for two way conversations. I look forward to seeing others follow the Swiss’ lead.

The Swiss Embassy is merely one example, and this is not just a best practice for diplomacy. Transparent, engaging and accessible should increasingly be the mottos of corporate, philanthropic and broader government teams.

Opening the doors not only informs a greater number of people, but makes them more a part of the process; it humanizes principals and adds a new layer of accessibility, contributing to a stronger, more robust and trustworthy communications strategy.


Scott Nolan Smith is a founder and board member of the Digital Diplomacy Coalition. He is also a Vice President at Clyde Group and consultant to globally minded organizations and governments. He previously served as head of digital at the British Embassy in Washington.

This post originally appeared on the Clyde Group Medium publication.

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Exciting times for the Digital Diplomacy Coalition

We welcomed a Deputy Foreign Minister, senior government advisors, as well as dozens more diplomats driving innovation from within government and key private sector individuals integrating outside technologies and expertise into the public sector.

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Start Spreading The News!

The Digital Diplomacy Coalition (DDC) is growing yet again! We’re excited to welcome DDC New York to our Network as our second expansion DDC Chapter.

What’s a DDC Chapter? 

A DDC Chapter is a local (city, country or regional) organization in the DDC Network designed to bring together the diplomatic, international affairs, and tech communities from the local area. Each chapter is lead by a small group of volunteers from the local DDC community.

The DDC community started as a handful of digital practitioners in Washington, DC gathering to talk shop and share our stories. Today we have held over 25 key events, ranging from workshops to thought leadership panels to half-day conferences. We’ve engaged with over 3000 diplomats, technologists & communicators in Washington, DC and beyond. We’ve also partnered with some amazing organizations — Google, Fosterly, FleishmanHillard, the UN Foundation, 1776, SAIS, foreign governments & embassies, and many others.

DDC New York will be holding a Digital Diplomacy Happy Hour on 22 September to introduce the DDC to New York, and tease their upcoming formal launch event in October.

The New York Chapter follows Ottawa which launched this past June. We are actively working in other cities to build DDC Chapters and expand our DDC Network to build a truly global community.

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Hello Ottawa!

The Digital Diplomacy Coalition (DDC) is growing in new and exciting ways. We’re proud to welcome DDC Ottawa to our Network as our first official DDC Chapter.

What’s a DDC Chapter?

A DDC Chapter is a local (city, country or regional) organization in the DDC Network designed to bring together the diplomatic, international affairs, and tech communities from the local area. Each chapter is lead by a small group of volunteers from the local DDC community.

The DDC community started as a handful of digital practitioners in Washington, DC gathering to talk shop and share our stories. Today we have held over 25 key events, ranging from workshops to thought leadership panels to half-day conferences. We’ve engaged with over 3000 diplomats, technologists & communicators in Washington, DC and beyond and partnered with some amazing organizations — Google, Fosterly, FleishmanHillard, the UN Foundation, 1776, SAIS, foreign governments & embassies, and many others.

This new phase of the DDC is going to be amazing. Ottawa is just the beginning. We are working with other cities to build DDC Chapters and expand our Network to build a truly global community.

 

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