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US State Department and Web 2.0 – Take 2

Originally posted at http://generationshift.blospot.com.

A couple weeks ago, I blogged about the State Department’s use of Web 2.0, giving them an overall grade of “A” for their wide array of blogs, wikis, social network sites, podcasts, and a YouTube channel.

Let’s make it an A+.

Between that post and now, I had the chance to engage in a discussion on Web 2.0 with about a dozen personnel at State, mostly affiliated with the Youth Programs Division. The meeting revealed that they are engaged in even more social media endeavors. Below are two more examples:

Second Life: Although not operating their own SL island, State has partnered with the University of Southern California to host a live jazz concert, an awards ceremony for a diplomacy and video game competition (there were more attendees in SL than in person!) and an “Education Without Borders” forum that included participants from 14 countries just last week. What makes me excited about State’s forays into SL and other Web 2.0 applications is the fact that they are engaging an international audience. Recommendations: Don’t be the best kept secret! Share these successes more broadly with other agencies. For instance, why not collaborate with an agency like USDA Foreign Agriculture Service, Peace Corps or USAID to diversify the reach of these efforts. If they have programs that are even tangentially related to yours, explore partnerships that enhance and expand your influence.

ExchangesConnect: Two weeks ago, State launched a global forum called ExchangesConnect to promote collaboration and relationships among youth around the world. As you may know, State coordinates several exchange programs that bring our young global neighbors to the United States. We also send our students to other countries to facilitate cultural understanding. These programs are valuable, but what happens when the students return to their homes from the host country? What if they could continue to communicate with their new friends? That’s the essence of ExchangesConnect. Already at over 300 participants in just a few days, it’s worth watching the development of this community as it has implications beyond State. Recommendations: I remember writing a pen pal in Albuquerque when I lived in Nebraska back in fourth grade (the mid-80s) – I thought it sounded like an exotic place. Could this kind of community be useful to the Department of Education and its efforts to promote their intercultural curriculum efforts? What about collaborating with both ED and the Smithsonian to share ideas about bringing the world to the fingertips of our students – and all US citizens. Imagine having not just one, but 40 pen pals from places like Albania, Afghanistan and Angola using ExchangesConnect. Cool for kids and adults!

In addition to these two Web 2.0 activities, State is planning something big for election night…and I am not sure if I can talk about it yet. Recommendation: Stay attuned to State. They are quietly leading among Federal agencies in leveraging Web 2.0 and social media for the sake of diplomacy and international dialogue.

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