The week of October 15th began with COTELCO/IDPP executive director Dr. Derrick L. Cogburn attending the Exchange 2.0: The Science of Impact, The Imperative of Implementation on 15 October 2012. That meeting was followed with the American University School of International Service (SIS) and its International Communication (IC) program’s Public and Cultural Diplomacy Forum (PCDF), which featured a presentation from Ms. Tara Sonenshine, Under-Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy on 17 October 2012.
(Photo above provided by Bill Fitz-Patrick, Photographer for the U.S. Institute of Peace)
The emphasis of this year’s Exchange 2.0 meeting was the importance of and impact new technologies can have on cross-cultural collaboration; specifically, how cross-cultural collaboration is essential to the evolution of public diplomacy. The event began with a keynote address from Her Majesty Queen Noor Al Hussein of Jordan, who described a world in which education and diplomacy can be enhanced by the sharing of knowledge and ideas across different cultures.
Dr. Rebecca Saxe, founder and director of Saxelab Social Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), reviewed research on the impact of virtual exchanges. She argued that virtual participation increases empathy by allowing people to see and interact face-to face.
Ms. Sonenshine shared a similar sentiment at the launch of the PCDF. She implored that the key to progress in the public policy arena was sharing resources, knowledge, ideas, and the successful integration of new media and technology.
Ms. Sonenshine said, “Its about a recognition that we can’t do it alone. The problems and issues we face in the 21st century are intricate, interconnected, and international. They are cross-cutting and deep. We can’t do it without being involved or without using technology.”
Virtual collaboration remains COTELCO’s top priority. It is the central theme of all COTELCO research projects, including our biggest research endeavor, the Institute on Disability and Public Policy (IDPP). The IDPP (@aseanidpp) uses a suite of commerical and open source information and communication tools to create an accessible cyberlearning environment that facilitates cross-cultural collaboration between the students and faculty of the world’s first virtual Master’s in disability policy, which bridges teaching and learning from corners of the world including Southeast Asia, Europe, Africa, and the United States.
While most of this week addressed the positives of virtual collaboration, Ms. Sonenshine offered an interesting twist on the week’s discussion of virtual collaboration and public policy when she cautioned against possible pitfalls. Topping that list was avoiding ‘group-think,’ reinventing the wheel, and endless circles of conversation with no conclusions.
Under-Secretary Sonenshine ended the week with a presentation at Syracause University's 5th Annual Public Diplomacy Symposium entitled, "Public Diplomacy: The Lodestar for 21st Century Statecraft," in which she discussed how technology and innovation are enhancing traditional foreign policy tools.
For more on the CIDP Master’s program, click here.