Amplifying Our Impact: Exploring Technology-Enhanced Approaches to Extraordinary Citizen Diplomacy

Amplifying Our Impact: Exploring Technology-Enhanced Approaches to Extraordinary Citizen Diplomacy

Christopher L. Washington, Franklin University


Across the world, leaders face complex challenges that threaten the vitality and well-being of communities. Many of the challenges cross borders, such as disease outbreaks, air and water pollution, social-political uprisings, and economic instability, to name a few. When faced by difficult challenges, one natural human tendency is to retrench within borders, view problems from within cultural and national perspectives, and to view outside viewpoints and people as threatening. The result can be fractured relationships, suboptimal strategies, and divisive conflict. The complex challenges of our time can only be solved by promoting mutual understanding of the causes and consequences among stakeholders, and by pursuing collaborative solutions across cultural, geographic, and national boundaries.

Citizen diplomacy is the concept that every global citizen has the right, even the responsibility, to engage across cultures and create shared understanding through meaningful person-to-person interactions (Jennifer Clinton, retrieved from Citizen diplomacy has the power to lead to more interdependent forms of engagement between citizens of different countries. Citizen diplomats conduct much of their formal work through short duration visitor programs sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. Citizen diplomacy is recognized by many governments around the world as a powerful force in building and sustaining a secure, economically sound, and socially interconnected world. Many world leaders have participated in these visitor programs.

While the important work of promoting mutual understanding among citizens of many nations is performed, in part, by a dedicated and passionate core of staff and volunteers citizen diplomats, their work is often constrained by event schedules, geography, and program design. These limitations may result in “Sprinter’s Diplomacy,” whereby a great deal of energy is focused on short term visitor experiences, with little if any attention focused on driving creativity and innovation in addressing challenging problems, or building extraordinary partnerships and alliances that last over time. Clearly more can be done to extend these relationships and amplify the impact of citizen diplomacy efforts.