Exchange Matters / September 1, 2017

Building Relationships in the Digital Age

By Patricia Harrison, Director of Professional Exchanges, World Learning, and Cortney Grekin, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Global Ties San Francisco

Two Global Ties Network members participated in the twelfth annual USC Center on Public Diplomacy Summer Institute, a two-week professional training program for mid-level public diplomacy practitioners. Learn more about their program takeaways and highlights below.

Class of 2017 Center on Public Diplomacy (CPD) Summer Institute at the University of Southern California Photo credit: CPD

Global Ties U.S. provided competitive scholarships for Global Ties Network representatives to join the University of Southern California’s Center on Public Diplomacy (USC CPD) Summer Institute. The Summer Institute, now in its twelfth year, convenes international public diplomacy practitioners working for governmental and non-governmental organizations for a two-week training program on emerging trends and best practices in public diplomacy. Joining the class of 2017 were two International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) implementers: Patricia Harrison, Director of Professional Exchanges at World Learning, and Cortney Grekin, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Global Ties San Francisco. Patricia and Courtney were part of a group representing eleven countries, fourteen organizations, and a collective 200 years of public diplomacy practice; they join more than 200 hundred alumni who have participated in previous Summer Institutes since 2006.

This was the first year that Community-Based Members/National Program Agencies (CBM/NPA) representatives from the Global Ties Network were selected to participate, and it was a valuable opportunity for them to collaborate directly with foreign service officers from U.S. and foreign governments, stakeholders from non-governmental organizations (NGO), and influencers who play essential roles in the practice of public diplomacy in its broadest sense.

The two-week course allowed practitioners to engage with peers and professors in discussions that bridged the theory/practice gap and that presented public diplomacy as a series of strategies that are both measurable and solution-driven. The program emphasized applied learning through the analysis of relevant global case studies and hands-on opportunities to use social media tools and equipment. Each module was unique and thought-provoking.

“What I appreciated most was the opportunity to take a step back and look at our IVLP work in the larger context of public diplomacy and soft power,” said Patricia. “Exchanges are just one of the methods by which governments pursue their public diplomacy goals and the Summer Institute gave me a deeper appreciation for the full range of approaches that constitute public diplomacy – including media relations, foreign aid, and nation-branding. In addition, the Institute’s emphasis on social media practices gave me a chance to try out new apps, tools, and equipment that are best suited for the visual immediacy of public communication in the digital age.”

Jazz and Leadership, Class of 2017 Center on Public Diplomacy Summer Institute at the University of Southern California Photo credit: Cortney Grekin

One of the most beneficial aspects of the program was the opportunity to implement the principles and tools learned through extended simulations and group exercises. “Students were asked to wear different ‘hats’ to step outside of their normal roles and to design actionable strategies in a format where risk-taking and creativity was encouraged,” said Cortney. “This generated cross-functional collaboration and daring new ideas that we rarely give ourselves time or license to pursue.”

For example, at the end of the first week, participants were assigned to small teams representing either a well-known international media organization or a state actor, and asked to put into practice media framing and messaging concepts for a simulated press briefing on a current global political crisis. In the second week, participants took part in a Public Diplomacy Hackathon, which required groups to devise creative solutions to amplify a real-life social media campaign challenge submitted in advance by a fellow student. The final simulation tasked larger teams to present a multi-layered public diplomacy and nation branding strategy for their assigned country that implemented as many resources, research tools, media concepts, apps, and frameworks they had learned during the two-week course.

In Cortney’s view, “The level of preparation by the staff and faculty of the USC CPD team was impressive. The breadth of information covered and the opportunity to practice these new skills through tailored simulation exercises was an engaging learning experience. The diversity and structure of the program provided refreshing perspectives, insights, and analyses for developing valuable and effective public diplomacy strategies in our current and future professional capacities. We left with great new friends and a real-world knowledge about the impact of New Public Diplomacy on building successful global relationships in the information age.”

Patricia and Cortney were grateful to participate in the USC CPD Summer Institute, and added that “We highly recommend that Global Ties U.S. support CBM and NPA participation in the USC CPD Summer Institute again next year!”

Class of 2017 Center on Public Diplomacy (CPD) Summer Institute at the University of Southern California Photo credit: CPD