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State Needs New Diplomats: Ready to Recruit with Web 2.0?

An article in today’s Government Executive addresses a serious gap in the State Department’s diplomatic corps:

If the State Department does not beef up its workforce, diplomatic programs will suffer and foreign policy will become more militarized, a new report warned.

“Today, significant portions of the nation’s foreign affairs business simply are not accomplished,” stated the report, released earlier this week by the American Academy of Diplomacy and the Stimson Center. “The work migrates by default to the military that does have the necessary people and funding, but neither sufficient experience nor knowledge. The ‘militarization’ of diplomacy exists and is accelerating… . The status quo cannot continue without serious damage to our vital interests.” The report also studied staffing levels at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The report recommended that the State Department hire 4,735 more Foreign Service staffers and other key personnel between fiscal 2010 and 2014. New hires would be involved in core diplomatic efforts such as operating embassies and working with businesses and nongovernmental organizations abroad; engage in public diplomacy; administer economic assistance programs like those at USAID; and manage reconstruction and stabilization projects similar to ones in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those staffers would fill a 2008 shortfall of 2,400 employees, the authors said, and help State expand its activities while allowing more employees to receive much-needed training.

Based on a brief tour of the Internet, it appears as if State has a great start on using Web 2.0 and social media tools to attract the next generation of diplomatic staff. With this strong showing in the “wired world,” State has the foundational resources in place to reach a broader, younger audience. Below is a survey of State’s Web 2.0 tools and some practical suggestions for maximizing them:
1. State Department YouTube Channel: Very few government agencies have a presence on YouTube, so let’s applaud State for being one of the first into this space. They have video from Secretary Rice, diplomatic efforts around the globe and even a public service announcement on illegal wildlife tracking from Indiana Jones (aka Harrison Ford):

However, one would never know they have this great resource from a review of their agency website. Recommendations: Put a prominent link to State’s YouTube Channel somewhere on the home page. Create video content, such as interviews or special interest stories that feature ‘legends’ among the diplomatic corps. Cross-link to the DipNotes blog and Facebook pages.

2. DipNotes Blog: DipNotes is another great foray into the world of Web 2.0 for State. The blog does a great job of informing the public about important issues related to US foreign policy. It’s still a bit Web 1.0 insofar as it “pushes out” information rather than interacting and collaborating with the foreign relations community or other public stakeholders. Also, DipNotes is not geared toward recruitment as it does not include information related to a career at State. Recommendations: Create a forum for public discussion about US foreign policy. Engage citizens in a conversation by asking questions on the blog and encouraging comments. Insert cross-links to the YouTube Channel to further promote awareness of State’s web-based, information sharing activities. Keep rotating authors among your diplomatic corps, posting articles that emphasize their day-to-day experiences.

3. State on Facebook: One word: Wow. The State Department has no fewer than eight Facebook pages:

> Official State Department Face Book Page
> Careers
> Careers in Foreign Affairs Group (over 2,000 members!)
> Bureau of Consular Affairs
> Diplomatic Security Group
> Diplomatic Security Jobs (limited activity)
> US Embassy: Japan (packed with great information – maybe the best of the bunch!)
> US Embassy: Lebanon (not much here)
> US Embassy: Uruguay (Spanish)

In looking at the comments and discussion forums, visitors are asking excellent questions and providing information on additional Facebook pages created by embassies throughout the world. Although these sites have varying levels of content, State still gets a solid “A” for reaching out through this medium. Recommendations: Combine the duplicate Careers and Diplomatic Security sites. Make sure there are links back to DipNotes and YouTube channel. Replicate the excellent content found on the Japanese embassy page and the use of country-specific languages a la the Uruguayan embassy site. Be sure to implement the suggestions and new links from your users on your discussion forum. Some of the information was provided over two months ago and updates are not yet present.

Five more of the Web 2.0 tools being used by the State Department (Democracy Video Challenge, DipNotes on Twitter, Diplopedia Wiki, State on Flickr, and State Podcasts) may be found at http://generationshiftlblogspot.com.

What additional recommendations do you have for the State Department and other agencies that are using Web 2.0 to recruit the next generation of public servants?

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Anne Laurent

Andrew, Very complete and on-target recommendations. Now let’s see whether DoS takes you up on them. Did you know they also have been quietly and effectively active in Second Life as well? Smartly avoiding any permanent presence there (a guarantee of endless griefing), State has conducted some interesting focus groups, etc. in-world. I touch on their activities here: http://www.nextgov.com/nextgov/ng_20080428_3630.php

Great work!

Andrew Krzmarzick

Hi Anne,

I just delivered a Web 2.0 workshop for a couple State folks this week – the blog was an offshoot of my prep for the presentation. One of the people was the guru (self-dubbed “the Godfather”) at State driving their experimentation with social media. Based on that workshop, I am presenting again to their Youth Programs Division to help them think about ideas.

During our conversation, I specifically asked about Second Life and learned about their work with University of Southern California. Stay tuned: they are planning live coverage of the election for an international audience using a mash-up of several tools! If it flies, that’s (one place) where I plan to tune in on Nov 4….