U.S. ADVISORY COMMISSION ON PUBLIC DIPLOMACY
MINUTES/TRANSCRIPT FROM THE QUARTERLY PUBLIC MEETING ON PUBLIC DIPLOMACY ON THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE’S MULTI-YEAR PUBLIC DIPLOMACY MODERNIZATION EFFORT
Thursday, April 11, 2019 | 10:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
U.S. Capital Visitor Center, Room SVC-209-208, First St NE, Washington, DC 20515
COMMISSION MEMBERS PRESENT:
TH Sim Farar, Chair
TH William Hybl, Vice-Chair (via phone)
TH Anne Terman Wedner
COMMISSION STAFF MEMBERS PRESENT:
Mr. Jeff Daigle, Designated Federal Official
Mr. Ryan Walsh, IIP Senior Advisor
The U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy met in an open session from 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 11, 2019, to discuss the Department of State’s multi-year Pubic Diplomacy modernization effort. Panelists from the Office of Policy, Planning, and Resources (R/PPR), with the Office of the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R), included Brian Heath, Judy Moon, Paul Kruchoski, and Eulynn Shiu. The session was moderated by ACPD Commissioner Anne Wedner. After their presentations, the panelists answered several questions from the Commissioners and the audience, as detailed in the transcript below.
Anne Wedner: Good morning, everyone. Welcome Sim, and Bill’s on the phone with us. Welcome to the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy’s first public meeting for 2019. We will focus today on the Department of State’s efforts to modernize the practice of Public Diplomacy, including structure, staff, and technology. I’m Commissioner Anne Wedner, and I’ll be the moderator for today’s event.
We have a very special welcome for our four panelists from the Office of Policy, Planning, and Resources, R/PPR as it’s known, within the Office of the Undersecretary of State and Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, known in the State Department as R.
Brian Heath is R/PPR’s acting Director, who will provide an overview of PD modernization within the State Department and the strategic framework for this effort. Then we have Judy Moon, a Senior Advisor in R/PPR, who will discuss efforts to realign the functions of Public Diplomacy sections in U.S. posts overseas, as well as the roles of posts’ PD locally employed staff.
We have Paul Kruchoski, R/PPR’s Director of Research and Evaluation, who will brief us on efforts to better integrate online planning and management tools into PD strategic decision-making, and we also have Eulynn Shiu, R/PPR’s Senior Evaluation Officer, who will discuss efforts to strengthen PD monitoring and evaluation capabilities.
Also with us, I said hello to Sim and to Vice Chairman Bill Hybl. Sim is our Chairman and so before we begin our panel today, I’d like Sim to say a few words to everyone.
Sim Farar: Thank you, Anne, very much, and the audience, thank you all for being here today and a special thanks to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a particular staff member, Brian Cullen, for arranging for the Commission to use this space for today’s meeting. I’m pleased to be joined by our distinguished colleagues from the Commission, including Bill Hybl, who I think is on the phone. Is Bill on the telephone?
Bill Hybl: Yes.
Sim Farar: OK, well, Bill Hybl is the Vice Chairman from Colorado Springs, Colorado, and he’s currently in Palm Desert, California. We also have Anne Terman Wedner in from Chicago, Illinois. They are currently four vacancies on the Commission, but I’m pleased to note that the President has nominated Ambassador Charles Glazer to join our ranks. Ambassador Glazer has a distinguished record of public service, having been the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador under President George W. Bush, as well as the State Department’s transition lead for the Trump Administration. We wish Ambassador Glazer a speedy confirmation by the United States Senate.
As many of you are aware, the Commission represents the public interest by advising on the U.S. government’s global information, media, cultural, and educational exchange programs. It is a bipartisan and independent body created by Congress in 1948 to assess and recommend policies and programs in support of all U.S. government efforts to understand, inform, and influence foreign publics, particularly, but not limited to, the work of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for Global Media (formerly known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors or BBG).
The Commission is mandated by law to report its findings and recommendations to the President, the Congress, the Secretary of State, and the American people. The Commission’s “Comprehensive Annual Report on Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting” is the ACPD’s premier product. It compiles and analyzes PD data collected from over 20 State Department offices and other U.S. government agencies and includes carefully considered recommendations from the Commission for improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the U.S. government’s PD programs. Our 2018 comprehensive report was released at our last meeting in December and is available for download on the Commission’s website at www.state.gov/pdcommission/reports.
Since Fiscal Year 2013, the Commission has made 112 recommendations, roughly 55 percent of which have been implemented or are in the process of being implemented, resulting in improved operational efficiencies and program effectiveness. Major recommendations that have been adopted or are underway include: the creation of a formal structure to support data-driven PD decision making through research, analysis, and evaluation; the development of public-accessibility standards for American Spaces overseas to ensure these important PD platforms remain effective at engaging foreign audiences; and the proposed merger of the Bureaus of Public Affairs (PA) and International Information Programs (IIP).
Of course the Commission would like to see many more of its recommendations put into practice, which is why I am so pleased to have all of you join us today to discuss the important topic of how the State Department is working to modernize its practice of Public Diplomacy. Many of the topics the panelists will discuss are linked to ACPD recommendations over the past several years, and the Commission appreciates this opportunity to hear directly from the experts involved in implementing these changes and to learn about the progress being made, the challenges still faced, and the ways in which the Commission can support these efforts.
Again, thank you all very much for joining us and for coming out here today. Now I’ll turn it back over to Anne Wedner.
Anne Wedner: Many thanks, Mr. Chairman. I’m delighted to have with us here today an exceptional group of panelists, who bring in-depth experience and expertise to this important discussion on the State Department’s efforts to modernize its practice of Public Diplomacy. Each panelist will make about a 10- to 15-minute presentation. All four panelists, after they’ve all spoken, will take some questions, and I’ll help moderate the discussion. So please save your comments and questions for that time after everybody has finished.
Our first presenter is Brian Heath, who will provide an overview of PD modernization within the State Department and the strategic framework for this effort. Brian is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Minister Counselor and has served as the acting Director of the Office of Policy, Planning, and Resources since September 2017. Prior to this assignment, he held a variety of positions overseas, including in India, Germany, Pakistan, and Iraq; at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York; and here in Washington, D.C. Thank you so much, Brian, for coming and joining us today.
Brian Heath: Thank you. Thanks for the introduction, and my thanks to the Commission for the invitation for R/PPR to join you all here for the meeting and to speak to our efforts to modernize the practice of Public Diplomacy at the Department of State. Moreover, let me just also thank the Commission for the support and input you provide on how we can make it even more effective and more modern. I know the time I’ve been in R/PPR it’s been very much appreciated. We’ve had a very productive and complementary relationship with the ACPD, and I look forward to continuing that into the future.
The Public Diplomacy modernization effort is a multiyear undertaking with three key elements. The first of those is realigning the organizational structure of Public Diplomacy sections globally and revising all Locally Employed staff position descriptions to fit that restructuring. The second is to integrate and modernize the online planning and management tools used by PD practitioners worldwide. The third is to increase our capabilities for the monitoring and evaluation of PD programs.
You might be asking why are we doing this and why are we doing it maybe now. Particularly, what’s the need for this? At the risk of sounding flip, you may be surprised to know the world is changing. It’s evolving. It’s evolving more quickly than it perhaps has at any time before in human history. We need to ensure that PD is not only keeping up with it, but anticipating where it’s going.
For example, the information sources today are more diffuse than they’ve ever been before. Gone are the days of three broadcast networks here in the U.S. or the one government-led broadcast network overseas where citizens got their news from television. Likewise, gone are the days of having two, maybe three major daily newspapers in a city where everyone got their news from. With that diffusion, the sources of news for the individual have become more personal and more tailored.
Apple just last week launched their own newsfeed service. It’s an interesting word choice, if you think about it—feeding people news. It’s not necessarily people seeking it out. These are algorithms that make decisions based on articles you might have liked in the past and the ways you may have engaged on social media, and then this stuff is being fed to you. That’s what they call it.
So we have to be sure that PD is keeping up with those developments and that we are getting the information we want to communicate across in a way that is effective and is efficient, because our resources are finite. It’s not just a question of budget. But of course, even earlier this week when Secretary Pompeo was on the Hill testifying for the FY20 budget request, he did note the need to deliver exceptional results for American taxpayers. Of course, it’s absolutely in our interest to do that, whether we’re in a time of stagnant Public Diplomacy resources or at a time of increasing resources. Regardless of the amount of resources, we want to be sure we’re using them as effectively as we can.
Beyond budgets, the tool set we have is ever expanding along with the proliferation of social media sites. In addition to the more old-school methods of communicating and sharing information, our PAOs and LE staff across the world are being called on to do more and more. We have to be careful, because of course, our human resources are finite as well. So we have to be very careful in using those tools, those methods, that we know are effective. The way to do that is through having very good ways to evaluate what issues and tools are worth investing our limited resources in.
So the third point in terms of the need is just that now is the time. I’ll mention two examples to drive that point home. The first is that when we actually started looking several years ago at how our overseas PD sections are structured, it had been—the last time anyone had taken a holistic view at the structure and the underlying baseline position descriptions that are used for our more than 2,500 LE staff positions overseas was in the Carter Administration. So there have been some changes in the world since the Carter Administration—the internet, for example. So that was long overdue.
When we look at the planning and management tools that we use and that R/PPR has in place for not only ourselves, but for our PD practitioners overseas, they’ve grown up and evolved as individual siloed systems over time. While each have started with the best intentions, what we now have is a universe of systems that don’t communicate with each other, that don’t use standardized terms for input or output, that require multiple data entry procedures, and logons, and repetitive actions that way. So by modernizing those systems, putting them all on a single platform, not only will we make it easier for PAOs to plan, track, evaluate, and monitor their programs, but we’ll make it easier for us to use that data to not only help them figure out where they should be putting their resources, but making the case for how Public Diplomacy is working and what we could do with additional resources should we have the opportunity and the ability to get them.
So that’s the case for doing PD modernization and what it is in a nutshell. We’re basing this all on the PD strategic framework. This is a document that R/PPR has developed in consultation with Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs practitioners both domestically and overseas. It’s always sort of being updated. The last major update was in 2017, and we’re always talking to the field about it and asking them to keep it in mind. Really more than keep it in mind—use it as the baseline for everything they’re doing. So if that’s what we’re telling the field, it’s only fair that we hold ourselves to that same standard as well. And so we are.
So what the PD strategic framework does, it’s a design to ensure the PD assets are strategically deployed, that they’re managed well, that they deliver results that further foreign policy objectives and enhance national security. And they do that by understanding, informing, and influencing foreign publics by expanding and strengthening their relationship between the people in the government of the United States and citizens of the rest of the world—the basic language that has served as the grounding for how Public Diplomacy has been practiced for more than half a century.
There are four key pillars within that strategic framework. The first is audience analysis. That is determining the best possible conditions to reach pivotal and persuadable publics in the right ways at the right times. The second is strategy development—identifying how to use Public Diplomacy capabilities to achieve foreign policy goals and laying out an action plan for doing so. The third is effective management—allocating and deploying human and financial resources in cooperation with our partners to implement and monitor outreach programs. The second, or I’m sorry, the fourth and final is ongoing evaluation—setting measurable objectives, assessing whether goals are being met, providing evidence of impacts, and informing future efforts.
As we go through the various elements of the modernization effort today, you’ll see each of those pillars reflected in each of those efforts. So what are the efforts? The three key efforts, the ones we’ll talk about today, I mentioned at the top of my remarks. I’ll just go into a little more detail with them now before turning the floor over my colleagues to go into even more detail.
The first is organizational structure and staff. As I mentioned, the first time in 40 years, R/PPR is undertaking a holistic review of how each of the Department’s overseas PD sections is organized and staffed. These are views incorporating updated global standards for Public Diplomacy operations while also providing flexibility to account for each post’s unique characteristics. There is no one-size-fits-all model. We put together the broad outlines and then work with posts to tailor it to their needs and circumstances.
More than 200 PD sections will be reorganized, and some 2,600 locally employed staff positions revised to strengthen effectiveness, efficiency, and accountability through this process. The new structures and position descriptions are designed to bring policy objectives to key audiences, evaluate which PD programs are likely to be most effective in influencing those audiences, and continuously monitoring and evaluating program results.
There’s a lot packed in there, and Judy will go into more detail about what all that means. But it’s a pretty audacious undertaking. Everything is going to have—and already, from what I’ve seen from addition posts we’ve done, is it’s having some very position results.
The second and key element is updating our planning and management tools. R/PPR is in the process of integrating and modernizing the online PD tools for audience analysis and targeting, strategic planning, budget analysis, and measurement and evaluation. This new Salesforce-based platform that’s under development will offer posts easy to access dashboards, streamlined planning, and the ability to track results of all PD activities and constitutions of each mission’s integrated country strategy objectives.
By using Salesforce, the new tools will draw on the contact relationship management systems existing contact and even data, drastically reducing manual data entry, allowing personnel to focus on high value work. For those who have been involved in Public Diplomacy at the Department, you’ll know that for years the Department did not have an enterprise wide CRM system, that different [Beeping]. That means there’s a vote. So if you need to vote, we’ll excuse you now. But the Department did not have an enterprise wide CRM system—different regions and different posts for all these different systems. Again, that created a lack of operability, lack of communication, lack of ability to share things between systems in regions and posts.
So I’m pleased to say that Salesforce has been identified as the enterprise wide CRM tool for the Department. We’re using that to build out these tools to not only take advantage of the flexibility that platform provides, but be able to leverage it for additional opportunities in the future as well. Importantly, this project underlies the program result status to the extent possible so that we can compare apples to apples instead apples to oranges and trying to figure out what the hybrid food actually should be called.
The final piece, key element, is monitoring/evaluation. R/PPR is advancing greater use of monitoring/evaluation in Public Diplomacy in support of the President’s goal to improve using data for decision-making and to demonstrate accountability to the American taxpayer. R/PPR’s research and evaluation unit pursers a two-pronged approach in doing this. The first is to develop original rigorous research in partnership with our posts. The second is to support diplomats and using evidence to continuously improve their work.
Last year R/PPR offered research and evaluation support to more than 80 missions. For this year, we’re looking to include developing new standardized program monitoring tools for the most common PD activities, expanding our monitoring and evaluation training of field personnel, and getting new impact evaluations for high priority programs.
So that, in a nutshell, is the PD modernization effort that R/PPR has underway. And with that, I invite my colleagues to share details of the initiatives that they’re leading, beginning first with Judy Moon. Thank you.
Anne Wedner: Thank you, Brian. That was great. I’m sure we all have a lot of questions. But I want to introduce Judy right now. So Judy is a senior Foreign Service officer with a rank of Minister Counselor, having joined the Foreign Service with the United States Information Agency in 1984. She currently serves as the director of R/PPR’s professional development unit. Her most recent prior posting was at the Country Public Affair Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia. Other senior positions have included serving as the PD Office Director for the East Asia and Pacific Bureau and leading the Public Diplomacy sections at the U.S. embassies in Australia, Romania, and Fiji. She has also served overseas in positions at the U.S. embassies in Cameroon, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, and South Africa. And in Washington, she has served in the State Department’s European Affairs Bureau and USIA’s bureaus of African Affairs and American Affairs.
Thank you, Judy, for joining us today. Your extensive overseas experience managing Public Diplomacy sections is an invaluable resource at the State Department’s current efforts to realign the work of these sections, and we look forward to hearing what you have to say.
Judy Moon: Thank you very much. I realize that all of those places I’ve been only tells you how long I’ve been around, so I’m not going to dwell on that too much. Although, I’ll say that does serve me well when I’m trying to sympathize with some little post in Africa that has two positions and doesn’t have anybody on board right now.
The locally engaged staff initiative began as a concept probably about four years ago, maybe a little bit longer than that even, under Lee Paris’ leadership. I’m sure everyone knows Lee. In last February, we finally got to agreement with the HR Office of Overseas Employment on the 14 framework job descriptions that we had developed in conjunction with them. That was a long and arduous process. But it means that every word had been parsed, and we have a complete agreement between our two offices on how to proceed. And we work very closely with them even now.
So originally we thought, I think—I think we thought we were going to be able to go out and roll these out, knowing that no one post—all 14 were going to fit at one post. There’s no idealized post. But what we found was that our PD officers were not ready. They were ready to hire people. They wanted to hire and fill the gaps that they had, but they were not ready for the new vision of the strategic framework, that the strategic framework brings with its emphasis on audience and the responsibilities that devolve from that.
The new structure—I don’t know if we—the new structure reduces the number of jobs in the PD series from seven or eight to these three—resource coordination, public engagement, and strategic content coordination. And we have found so far, in the 15 posts we have completed, as well as another 25 I think it is that we have that are in various stages of being completed, that we have the flexibility within these 14 framework job descriptions to create anything that we need for any overseas post. Whether it be the Vatican, which has one LES, and we’re in China right now, which has 80, and we’re planning on going to India, which has 180. We will be able to accommodate all the needs of the posts there.
This requires that we have a very intensive relationship with the posts, and therefore, we have senior, mostly retired, Foreign Service PD officers who are their coaches for us. The coaches began working with the PD sections to describe what the process is going to be and to gather information from them. And then pay the visit to that post, or to a pair of posts more often, to work directly with the Public Affairs section staff, both the Americans and the LES.
We put a lot of emphasis on the LES mostly because we feel that, really, it’s all about them. It doesn’t add a lot of value to the work of writing the position descriptions, quite honestly. The time that we spend with the LES, it does add some. It’s not like it’s not valuable at all, but we know that we need to do that because this is really all about them. So our team is typically two coaches who travel in pairs. One is the lead coach in one country, and then they go to a second country, and the second person is the lead coach. And normally, they’re there for about a week.
The post that we’re doing right now, China, is they are there for three weeks, and they’ll actually go back again afterwards. And they’ve already paid a visit there earlier this year. We’re getting ready to go out to India to do what we call a “recon” visit to see what the problems might be, to start laying out what kinds of things the post needs to be doing well in advance of an actual visit from us. And a lot of that has to do with changing the mindset of how they approach their work to try and adopt this audience approach. And what does it mean? Who are the experts in my section? How would I think about reorganizing my office without any sort of parameters?
At one point, we sent out the idealized org chart and realized that that was really a straightjacket for PAOs and for the coaches as well. So we don’t do that anymore. We want them to know that they can create their own structures, and we’re there to help them do that—not to tell them how to do it, but to help them to do that. That requires intensive dialogue, the PAO, the management section at the embassy, the HRO, the DCM, and the ambassador. The more leadership we have from the top, the smoother it goes at the post. And the more preparation we’re able to do with a post, the more smother it has gone.
So once the coach goes out and has developed usually an org chart and decided who they think they want to encumber those positions, the team will come back and begin an iterative process with the post on writing the FJDs and the various documents that need to support the actual structure. Once we’re done with that and it goes through the HR at post, it will then go to the classifiers in the regions. And we work closely with the classifiers. We have an agreement with them that we sit in on all the job discussions to provide advice and support to the PAO, should they need them. Sometimes we don’t say a word and we simply listen, because the PAO’s doing a great job. And sometimes we need to intervene in order to explain why a position was written in such a way as it was.
The positions are interlocking. The big centerpiece there, you noticed—well, the thing you don’t see any more is an IO section or a CAO section. They don’t exist in this new model. And there is some work being done to look at American officer position descriptions. But we realize right now, we do not have the bandwidth in our section to indicate that. But we’ve been providing advice to PAOs who are necessary of how to accommodate that when they may make changes.
The resource coordination unit is resources as a platform. We talk about the platforms on either side, excuse me, and the audience is in the middle. The platforms provide services and structure for the rest of the unit. The resource coordination people can include, and mandated they include—they could include things like the normal budget people, who were normally needing such a resource unit. But it also could be your translators. It could be your AV tech people. It could be your grants people. Not the GORs, but the people who are actually putting together the grants and run the grants program on the technical side. So that those would be centralized under resource coordination and provide services across the entire section for whatever service it is that is available in that particular embassy.
On the strategic content coordination side, that is both looking at strategy, and the implementation of strategy, and the coordination of strategy across the entire unit, and in fact, with the rest of the mission. And also the deployment of digital products falls underneath that unit.
The big centerpiece is really about developing the expertise of our staff and how to reach audiences, and to decide which programs or which activities should be used in order to reach a particular audience at a particular time. So we’ve divided that into three very large baskets. Again, the posts can mix position descriptions. They can blend things in ways that are not—might differ from one post to another. But established opinion leaders, a group that we have focused on for quite a long time.
Emerging voices. Emerging voices is not just youth. It could be a range of institutions and individuals who are just coming on to this need. One, we hope over time, that they will move into the established opinion leaders and they’ll be a new set of voices coming. So this is a unit that people flow through.
And then press and media. Press and media could have probably been folded into the established opinion leaders, but for a variety of reasons, it was decided to keep it as a separate audience. They are both an audience source and they are also a pool for us. So I think that also went into it.
The challenge for us and for the PAOs is to present what we’re doing as not writing new position descriptions, which is really sort of secondary to—it’s the function that we do, but it’s not the actual operational thing that we do. It’s really to take all the work that the PD modernization effort is doing and present it to them in a coherent way. And for them to step back and look at the section that they’re running and figure out what do I need in my section. What kinds of employees do I need, what kinds of structures do I need, in order to be able to address the mission goals and to identify the audiences that we need to reach? And any mission is going to have multiple audiences that will help them achieve a particular goal. But which of those audiences are actually ones that PD might be able to bring to the table and be able to influence and engage with?
And so a big part of what we’re doing, and indeed what Paul and Eulynn are doing, is about audience. They’re the experts on that more than we are. But we need to bring the idea to the table that the centerpiece of Public Diplomacy is the audiences that we need to reach. And only then do we think about what tools that we have that we could employ in order to use them. So I’m going to stop there.
Anne Wedner: Judy, that was great. Thank you so much. And now we can turn to Paul. Paul Kruchoski, he will brief us on efforts to integrate online planning and management tools into PD’s strategic decision-making. Paul is the director of R/PPR’s Public Diplomacy research and evaluation unit, which produces original rigorous research, and supports American diplomats, and using evidence to continuously improve the design and execution of PD activities. Paul previously help positions in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the Bureau of International Organization Affairs. From 2014 to 2016, he served on the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Education and is the founding curator of the Washington II Hub of the Global Shapers Community. Paul, thank you so much for joining us today.
Paul Kruchoski: Thank you so much for having me. So I have—beyond getting the microphone, right? I have I think one of the most fun presentations to do today, which is talking about government IT acquisition and development, which we all know is always a riveting and stimulating topic. But I’ll try to keep it lively and interesting.
So I want to do my presentation really in three parts. First, sketching out a history of the technical systems that we’ve developed over the last 15 years to support U.S. Public Diplomacy. And then talk about why we need to move in a different direction, why we’ve come to that conclusion. And then sketch out where we’re going, and how we’re going about the process of developing this new set of systems to support our PD practitioners.
Fundamentally, the systems that we’ve built over the last 15 years have been built to answer specific questions that we get about Public Diplomacy. The first one, the PD resources profile, helped answer a frequent question we got from Congress, from the Office of Management and Budget, from senior leaders at the Department. What are you spending all of the PD funds on? What activity types? What foreign policy objectives? And where? Where does the money go?
Unsurprisingly, once you start answering that question, it triggered a second question. Which is, OK, we know where the money is going. We know what sort of activities we’re funding. What do we get for it? How many people are we reaching? Where are we reaching them? What are the specific activities? What are the results of those? And that created the system that’s now known as the “mission activity tracker” that really tries to answer that question by tracking, reporting from our embassies, on what activities they’re doing in the Public Diplomacy domain, whether that’s engagement with the press, whether that’s engagement with publics, whether it’s management programs. And to start to be able to answer the question, what sort of people are we reaching and what are the results?
That, of course, led to the third question. Which is, how do these activities line up with the larger strategic objectives that the Department has that are laid out in what’s now the Joint Strategic Plan, and then at the mission level, the Integrated Country Strategy that really sets out the priorities and plan for how the post is going to achieve them. And the PD Implementation Plan that posts create on an annual basis now really tries to do that, tries to marry out proposed activities with the higher order objectives people are trying to achieve.
And over the last five years, these have started to generate a new question that the Commission has really been at the forefront of trying to push into everyone’s mind. Which is, first, what’s the impact? How do we know these programs are having their desired effect? And then I think the natural follow-on question to that is, how can we do it better? How can we do U.S. Public Diplomacy better incrementally over time?
And for me, this is the question that really started the conversation about how this new set of tools gets built. How do we deliver this information to our PD practitioners, who need to be continuously improving their work? Do they need to be able to look at every stage of the process and say, how can I do this better, what insights can I draw that allow me to adapt as I do it the next time or as I continue doing this activity?
Brian did a really good job of sketching out how the communication landscape has changed, how the programming environment is becoming incredibly complex. I think there’s another dimension here that’s critically important too. Which is a real renewed geopolitical competition with a number of other states and non-state actors increasingly engaging in the Public Diplomacy space and putting real pressure on U.S. Public Diplomacy operations in a way that I think we haven’t seen at this scale in quite a long time. Between this transformation in the environment and this increased competition, all of our PD practitioners that I’ve talked to—when I was in Australia four weeks ago or when I was in London last week—really feel the need to be able to do the very best with the resources they have. To be advancing our objectives across the broad, from peace and security, supporting economic prosperity, and supporting democratic efforts around the world.
And in Washington, we have to support our practitioners in doing that work. And our current set of technical systems has not been particularly effective at doing so. I think Brian sketched out some of the problems at the beginning. They’re fragmented. The budgeting system, the planning system, the reporting system are separate.
If a post wants to figure out how to knit this data together to get a comprehensive picture about where their resources are going, how they’re aligned, and how they’re doing, they have to do that work by hand. And fundamentally, they shouldn’t have to. We should be able to give them a set of tools that allows them to get a comprehensive picture about what’s going on and how they can continue to do better. And ultimately, that’s what we’re trying to do with the PD tools modernization is to create a set of tools that does that.
Last summer we made the decision, as many of these systems were reaching the end of the natural lifecycle and were going to be needed to be replaced or updated in a substantial way—to go ahead and combine them into a single platform. And I want to pause here and say that part of the genesis in moving in the direction we did is the incredible work that our colleagues in the Bureau of International Information Programs have done to build the CRM system in Salesforce that Brian was talking about, and the work to get it identified as an enterprise-wide tool for contact management. Really, the foundation of all Public Diplomacy work starts with relationships. And part of the challenge of going from relationships to strategy is you have a lot of steps in between. But by moving all of the information about our individual contact work, our event RSVP systems into a single platform, you’ve created the foundation on which you can start to do a lot of this reporting.
And what we’re in the process of doing now, as we think about how we build a new set of budget reporting tools, as we build a new strategic planning tool, a new monitoring, evaluation, and reporting tool, is really building on that work that they’ve already done by laying the foundation. Because by putting all of the data in the same system, you create the opportunity to pull data from the very bottom layer all the way up so that you can start to identify how that individual event work is contributing to higher order objectives. You can do surveying of event participants in a way that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. It’s really where this all starts.
So now that I’ve done my breakout to talk about how important that is, what we’re really trying to pursue as we develop this is to get our PD practitioners access to all of their data in a single location along with a set of digital tools that allows them to maximize the effectiveness of their work, from doing better audience identification, to planning and budgeting, program management, and ultimately learning from their results if they follow that data in place.
I talked about the importance of event data being able to flow straight up into reporting. I think this is one of the challenges that is the devil. Those of us who do monitoring and evaluation for so long, having it all in one place makes that substantially easier. It also makes it easier for posts, because we can group all of their data together, display it in a way where they can intuitively understand that, and reduce the amount of data entry that they’re going to do.
By putting our monitoring and evaluation tools in the same place, we can also help give people standardized data collection tools. We can help build those directly into the platform so that when you’re running an event you don’t have to do all of the work to think about what an appropriate set of survey questions might be for after the fact. We can help do that, put it in a repository, and give you a pre-built set of dashboards and tools to be able to see all of that and use it as part of your normal flow.
And then the last point that I want to make about how we’re building the system is we’re doing it in a modern cloud infrastructure. And this is the part where it gets a little IT-y. We talk a lot of about the cloud. But fundamentally, we’re building a tool that allows our PD practitioners to do this sort of work in a way that they would otherwise do. For those of you who have practiced Public Diplomacy overseas, getting back to your desk to do reporting just doesn’t make sense. You’re often on the move almost all the time. The reporting is going to suffer if you have to wait to get back to your desk.
The benefit of Salesforce is its mobile nature. You can do event sign-in on tablets. You can do it on your desktop. You can use it in a wide variety of operating environments. You can use it on the go both for doing your reporting, but also for your reporting out. It means that a PD practitioner who is sitting in the car with their ambassador and the ambassador says, “What have you done on X lately?,” you can go directly into the system on your phone or your tablet and show him as you’re going to the next event. It allows all of this to just move much more smoothly and seamlessly for PD practitioners.
So I will end with just a couple of words about development and deployment now that I’ve sketched out the vision of where we’re going. We’re trying to move as aggressively as we possibly can on this, because we know it is so central to the work that our PD practitioners do. And also, we know that many of these other tools are going to be aging out of their natural life here.
We spent last fall, after making the decision in the summer, really going out to posts and looking at their current workflows, their needs, and mapping them out. Our team went out to every region of the world. They just did seven posts over the course of about two and a half, three months. They spent a week at each post drilling down on every component of how they operate. We brought all of that back and used it to really develop our vision of what the new system can be and how it fits together with the business processes the posts already have.
We’re now moving into the development phase. Our goal is to be done with the development of the planning module this fall and then the activity tracking in the spring, and then aiming to have those core functions—activity tracking and reporting—online and deployed by next fall, by 2020. After that, we’re going to continue to add enhancements and develop additional features to the platform, including greater integration with other tools, some additional analytic capabilities. But we want to get something in front of people as soon as we possibly can and then continue the journey of figuring out how best we can use this technology to support our PD operations around the world. Thanks.
Anne Wedner: Paul, thank you. That was excellent. And I know that we’re, at the Commission, going to be really excited for all of this. It’ll make our report writing a lot easier.
Paul Kruchoski: That’s part of the goal.
Anne Wedner: This is all officially. So Eulynn Shiu is our last speaker this morning. And she will discuss efforts to strengthen PD monitoring and evaluation capabilities. Eulynn is R/PPR’s senior evaluation officer and has more than 15 years’ experience managing research teams in private, non-profit, and public sector. Prior to joining R/PPR in 2016, Eulynn held positions at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the Pew Research Center, where she authored the center’s first report a back then emergency technology, instant messaging. [Laughter] My, how things go fast. In 2009, Eulynn was one of 20 professionals awarded a Robert Bosch Foundation Fellowship to work in Germany on promoting trans-Atlantic relationships. Thank you so much, Eulynn, for being here today.
Eulynn Shiu: Thank you so much. Hi, everybody. So Paul said he had the most fun job of doing—talking about government IT. But I think I have the more fun job talking about research at the end of a panel. But you know what they say, save the best for last.
First, let me also thank the Advisory Commission for inviting me here today to contribute to this important discussion about ongoing efforts to modernize Public Diplomacy. As a senior analyst in R/PPR, I have spent nearly a decade monitoring and evaluating Public Diplomacy programs, and during the time, had the chance to participate in a lot of great work supporting the State Department’s mission through thoughtful research, insightful strategy development, and creating a culture of learning. That work isn’t only done by R/PPR. That work is also being done by many research and analytic shops in the PD universe. And I see a lot of familiar faces in the audience, and I wanted to make sure that you’re aware of all of the folks that are also doing this work.
We lean on and work with our colleagues in the Office of Opinion Research in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, the evaluation coordinator in the Bureau of Public Affairs, the Office of Analytics in the Bureau of International Information Programs, our colleagues in the evaluation division of ECA, the Office of Science and Technology in the Global Engagement Center, monitoring and evaluation specialists hired directly in regional bureaus, a growing number of M&E specialists also hired directly by PD sections and embassies, as well as PD sections in embassies around the world. So as you can see, there really is a growing movement where folks are truly interested and invested in monitoring and evaluation. As I said, I see a lot of friendly faces in the audience today, and it’s an honor to have a chance to highlight their work with us.
There’s a lot of excellent progress in the movement to support Public Diplomacy with better evidence. Today, I’ll only be able to briefly touch on four exciting strategic ways that Public Diplomacy is actively working to increase M&E capacities of PD practitioners. And those four things are partnering with diplomats on rigorous research, training diplomats to understand and use data, developing a common language about Public Diplomacy, and visualizing data in super dashboards.
To start us off: they say that the best way to do something is to do it firsthand. And toward that end, the research and evaluation unit in R/PPR is really invested in helping PD practitioners directly design and implement monitoring and evaluation projects on their own. A wonderful example of this has been our partnership with Embassy Freetown in Sierra Leone.
In 2017, their PAO approached us to ask for assistance with evaluating a series of civil engagement workshops taking place around the country. Leading up to national elections in 2017, there was a tremendous amount of pre-electoral violence, causing voting to be delayed. Our team took up this project and worked with Embassy Freetown to investigate the effect of these civic engagement workshops on informing or influencing young potential voters. We actually separated the curriculum into four different parts.
One curriculum tested efforts to just educate and inform participants. One tested efforts to influence participants in voting. Another combined these two, and the fourth was just a public health discussion topic. We collected this information and the results showed that a 90-minute one-touch workshop was likely to inform voters about how to vote, but not likely to change their attitudes towards pre-electoral violence. I am happy to go into those results in more detail later on. But the part of this story that gets really interesting is what happens after the results.
Embassy Freetown went out on a limb. They took a risk, and they worked with us to change their programming in a way to allow for rigorous program evaluation. And at the conclusion of that research, with those findings, one might think, well, perhaps they would use those disappointing results to cut the program, change it. Well, in this case, with support from the regional bureau—and I think I see Jane Carpenter Rock in the audience today. Really, with Jane’s support, Embassy Freetown decided to apply for additional funding to do a next iteration of those civic engagement workshops. And instead of going with “influence” as an objective, post chose to pursue “inform” as the activity’s primary goal. On top of that, after spending a year shadowing the R/PPR Research and Evaluation unit, they took on the evaluation themselves, designing it, and contracting with a local African research firm, and overseeing them throughout the course of the year. It’s often said that taking the middle man out is a good thing, and we definitely believe that. Our research partnerships with posts not only yield rigorous results, but it really gives them the confidence to develop projects that satisfy their own curiosity and learning goals.
So onto the second point. Not every post is ready to work with the Research and Evaluation shops in Washington, D.C. in the manner I just described. For those posts that are not quite ready to undertake such an intense research experience, what are some other ways that we can reach PD practitioners and help to build their capacity? This is where our friends at the Foreign Service Institute come in.
For many years, R/PPR and the Foreign Service Institute have had great conversations about how to prepare Public Diplomacy practitioners to be a modern workforce. And in recent years, we’ve really seen more concerted efforts by FSI to bring research specialists into their classes not just to talk about research findings, but really to go into the classes and begin to talk about research fundamentals.
Joe Johnson is sitting in the audience today, and Clare Ashley is back there. And Joe Johnson and Paul Cunningham have worked with us very closely over the last couple of years to fold monitoring and evaluation fundamentals into the PY219 strategic planning course in the PAO tradecraft series. And we have expended to the PD desk officer tradecraft series. I might get this number wrong, Joe, but I think over the last two seasons, we—the research specialists as well as Joe, and Paul, and Dan Sreebny, have been able to reach close to 200 Foreign Service officers and locally employed staff with monitoring and evaluation fundamentals. Those are classes that go on every year, so while 200 is just a small fraction of the total number of PD practitioners in the field, that’s just the last two years. We look forward to that number growing in the future.
In addition to the training work that we are doing with the Foreign Service Institute, R/PPR is also embarking on its own series of trainings. Tomorrow we have a team hopping on a plane to go to Armenia to pilot a five-day training focusing on understanding audiences, strategy development, and monitoring and evaluation. Some of the topics will include segmenting audiences, developing profiles, understanding media ecosystems, aligning PD objectives to PD strategy, developing smart objectives, articulating program evaluation purpose, identifying research questions, developing an evaluation budget, and data literacy. These are topics that are going to be—that have been taught at the Foreign Service Institute for many years. But we are all bringing it together in one five-day package.
You heard Judy talk a lot a little bit earlier about the staffing modernization effort. The reason why this team is going out to Armenia actually is an extension of that modernization initiative. Embassy Yerevan completed their staffing modernization efforts. They have gone through the evolution of changing their positions and are now are beginning to see themselves in their new roles. Our team now goes out at the end of that, or what we call the beginning of their follow-up period, to now begin preparing them to take on their new roles, be able to think strategically, be able to conduct M&E of their programs. So it is a part of ensuring that our PD practitioners out in the field move into their new positions as prepared as they can be.
For my last two efforts I want to switch gears a little bit and talk about the collection and presentation of data. A really common request that PD researchers get from PD practitioners is: can we get off-the-shelf templates for survey questions that we might ask the field? And I will be very, very honest and say that this is a huge conundrum for a researcher. Because what we support is Public Diplomacy practitioners trying to answer the question that best meet their learning needs. And because the fact that Public Diplomacy programs are used for many different reasons, it is very heard to produce off the shelf research.
For example: If you have a program—as an example, one Public Diplomacy officer might view a STEM education program as a way to change young people’s academic trajectories. In a different environment, that same STEM program may be used for social mobility purposes. We don’t want to hamper the kind of learning that PD practitioners can do by forcing them to use standard questions. At the same time, it would also be useful for Public Diplomacy writ large to be able to have that bird’s eye view on the performance of PD programs. And we have heard that recommendation over and over again.
So as part of the effort to roll out the PD Tools software that Paul described earlier, our team is also working at the same time, in tandem, with the IT developers to come up with a standard set of Public Diplomacy indicators. We’re very much in the early phases of this, so I don’t want anybody to write this down and think this is what they will be. But I can kind of talk about the way we are thinking about this.
When we conceive standard indicators for Public Diplomacy, we want to be able to track outcomes that we believe every single Public Diplomacy program achieves. It’s that common language of what all PD programs should do. We see it as awareness-building, attitude change, knowledge acquisition, relationship establishment and deepening, and behavior change. Working with those five buckets, our researchers are digging into psychological literature, branding literature, measures on trust, measures of self-efficacy to develop scales that will then be plugged into the PD tools system which allows us to survey individual participants on our programs on these validated measures. Like I said, early stages, but that is the way that we are conceiving of a way to go about coming up with a common language for Public Diplomacy.
I’m also happy to say that our colleagues, our like-minded colleagues, in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs are embarking on their own version of this journey. We’ve been in conversation with them and been really excited to hear about their efforts to do the same thing for exchange programs. And they’re thinking about ways to group the programs differently by program model or by audience type in order to also be able to get that bureau-wide view on how their programs are performing. So developing this common language for Public Diplomacy is also not only going to make it possible for us to answer that “can you give me something off-the-shelf” question, but also allow Public Diplomacy to get that overview over how programs are performing.
Fourth and last. As I get to the end of my presentation, I’m sure people are tiring of my voice, so I’m going to give you something interesting to look at and present Super Dashboards as a fourth and final example of how we’re expanding the use of data in Public Diplomacy. Super dashboards are a powerful way for Public Diplomacy to understand the reach and resonance of our social media efforts. Let’s begin with a common problem at embassy.
Embassy has a lot of social media properties, such as the ambassador’s Twitter feed, the PD section’s Facebook page, embassy individual program’s Facebook pages, and the embassy’s website, which in itself has all of its smaller sub-properties. A PD officer might have the kinds of questions like, how are my properties performing against each other? If I operate in a multilingual country, what language is the dominant parlance in the digital sphere? Who is actually consuming embassy content and how do they find us?
So our colleagues in IIP Analytics are compiling the answers to these questions and presenting them in this manner as super dashboards. This is an example. It comes from the Embassy Australia. And I know there are folks in IIP here, so correct me if I’m wrong of any of this. But it essentially helps us to answer some of those questions.
You can see now very easily which—the blue are Facebook properties. In the blue, you see the different types of social media properties. In the red, you can see consumption by the type of device, whether they’re using a smartphone, or a tablet, or a desktop. You’re able to see the age profile of folks who are visiting the website, as well as where they’re coming from. So whether they’re coming to the embassy website through organic searches or through a direct search.
The other really cool super dashboard that I’d like to show everyone is work that IIP Analytics is doing on behalf of the entire Department. This is a depiction of the top performing Department of State social media properties. The blue represents Facebook, the red, Twitter, and yellow, Instagram. And what this allows us to see very easily is the regions where there’s the most amount of activity on social media platforms. In SCA, that’s Facebook, which is unsurprising, because Facebook is a huge cultural-social norm. What we also see is compared to – or happily – the most activity and the most engagements from social media are actually taking place within the regions – as opposed to DC-based content providers. These dashboards are just a small hint of how we’re working to modernize the operations of Public Diplomacy and to support to PD practitioners in better, more timely assessments of their activities.
I’ll wrap up my portion of the presentation simply by saying and echoing what Brian said in the beginning, that strategic communication is more important than ever. And at the same time, it’s much more complicated—it’s more complicated than ever. In Public Diplomacy, we’re all too aware of the danger of not evolving. The efforts presented here today represent just a few of the ways that the Public Diplomacy family is working to ensure that its workforce, technology, and tradecraft continuously adapt to meet current and future challenges.
Anne Wedner: Eulynn, that’s great. The overall impression I get listening today, and I’m so thrilled to be a part of this—and Brian, your leadership has been incredible. Is that it seems like we’re witnessing a quiet revolution, finally, in how PD is conducted at State. And it’s so much more meaningful. And I feel like for people who aren’t doing the work and whom might be recruited to do the work, this is a much more interesting job. It’s just a really much more interesting than the old—when I was an assistant cultural attaché in Venezuela. It was an administrative type of thing. It wasn’t nearly as thoughtful, reflective, or analytical as it is now. And you’re taking in all of these talented students who want to serve their country, and it’s a great breath of fresh air to think that you will be responsible for this kind of information.
Before I turn it over to questions, I had one book I wanted to recommend to your curriculum. And I don’t know if you’ve read The Righteous Mind by Johnathan Haidt, H-A-I-D-T.
Eulynn Shiu: No.
Anne Wedner: And it’s an incredible view about how people make moral decisions, but any decision, and sort of the relative value of intuitive cognition and rational cognition. And it’s—I think if you’re building models about how people think about things and how we influence—it’s a really important read.
Eulynn Shiu: [Crosstalk] Thank you for the recommendation.
Anne Wedner: And it’s a fun read. He’s humoring. So do we have any questions for the audience there?
Jeff Daigle: And if you have a question, I’ll bring the microphone to you so we can catch it for the transcript.
Anne Wedner: And please say your name and your organization.
Audience Question: Thank you. Hi, my name is Robert Kelly. I’m an assistant professor at American University School of International Service. My question touches on a comment that Judy Moon made about leadership. And when there is more leadership, everything tends to go smoother. But what we’re facing right now within R is an absence of leadership, really. We don’t have an undersecretary. We’ve had an undersecretary of four of the 26 going on months of the administration.
What kind of an obstacle does this pose for the realization of this vision? And how are you working around it?
Brian Heath: Well, thank you for the question. Obviously, we’d prefer to have an undersecretary. I think that goes without saying. There have been acting undersecretaries. There have been people who have been delegated undersecretary authority. So the role is being performed, certainly not in the way if we had a Senate-confirmed full-time undersecretary.
But for the purposes of the efforts we’re talking about, it hasn’t been an impediment at all. We’ve been careful to do this in a way that got buy-in along the way. And so our engagement with the regional bureaus and the posts as we’re working to move these efforts forward has generally been positive. Certainly, when there are instances where an issue arises and then you have to sort of talk it through. But by and large, I don’t think the absence of an undersecretary in this administration has been an issue for these efforts.
Anne Wedner: Any other questions?
Brian Heath: There is one hand up there.
Anne Wedner: Go ahead. Go ahead.
Brian Heath: Yeah, in the back there.
Anne Wedner: Don’t be shy.
Audience Question: I’m a re-employed annuitant in the Department of State, a 30-year PD officer. I’ve got two questions. I apologize for being late, but meetings, meetings, meetings. One, I feel all right asking, because I heard Judy’s presentation about two weeks ago. I’m still concerned.
When I first got out to my two very small posts at the beginning of my career, the Public Diplomacy section, USIS, had an American management officer. Now, we do so much more work through grants, which means you need GORs, and you need someone else monitoring. I have found filling in overseas that there’s an appalling lack of time available for officers to go the last 30 feet, to make those essential contact, so at the beginning of a research chain, a beginning of the analysis that you’re rightfully advocating. So that’s still bothering me a lot.
The second thing is in my career I did a lot of interagency strategic communications work, and the last time I did it was at the end of the Bush 43 Administration. And I found that the most amazing tool we could bring to bear is interagency cooperation and public/private cooperation with INR and VOA being two Public Diplomacy or diplomacy-oriented research centers kind of quarterbacking on essential audiences for our strategic goals nationally. And is there, in the efforts you describe, an interagency aspect? Thank you.
Brian Heath:Well, it’s interesting, Peter, that you mentioned the term, “last 30 feet.” We’re going through, in the early stages of, the process of figuring out what to call this new PD tool suite. And I think actually Judy proposed the name, “the last 30 feet.”
Judy Moon: I can’t take the credit for that. But I like it.
Brian Heath: And so I think that it’s designed to help with that, to help, as Paul’s indicated, reduce the burden on data entry and try and make sense of the data output to enable the Public Diplomacy officers to use that time for more productive needs. And grants monitoring is a big part of that. I think there’s been a focus the last few years in the Department on improving the way we monitor our grants activity, and that’s certainly a consideration when we go to posts and we’re looking at the makeup of the section, how time is divided.
I think when it comes to talking about the Locally Employed staff initiative and how it changes the mindset of the post, it’s hard to overestimate how significant that change is. And I saw it myself last summer with a group of Public Affairs officers from some small AF posts who we had called together and asked them to identify audiences by putting some Post-its on a board with the audiences identified. But the audiences identified were all the audiences for particular programs, like the Fulbright audience, or that audience, or this audience. And really what we wanted to do with this is step back and get people to think more broadly – to remove the programs from it, to think first about who the influencers are on the particular issues involved in that country, and then really what are those different tools that are going to be most effective in reaching them.
And that’s what makes it the follow-on effort critically important too. Because we’ve all gone through trainings like this, and when you spend the week in the classroom or the week with coaches at post, it all makes perfect sense. And the classroom experience ends, and the coaches fly back to Washington, and everyone just goes back to doing what they were doing before regardless of what the PD position says or what the org chart shows. And I don’t think that it’s certainly not that extreme. I think we’re more successful than that, but certainly we acknowledge that we’ve got to keep following up and make sure that the mind and really how the practice becomes a muscle reflex as opposed to something we have to work at. So I think I might have strayed from your initial question there.
Audience Member: It’s very good.
Brian Heath: Yeah, important to know. And then the other part—and then I’ll ask if the other folks want to add. But to the international cooperation, yes and no. The systems, I think as we’re walking through developing them, we’ll have to look at what we capture. Public Affairs officers not only have access to PD funding, .7 funding, but also, of course, do in many ways support ECA programs with ECA funding. There’s a lot of USAID funding that gets provided to Public Affairs sections overseas for activities that are technically development activities, although certainly Public Affairs, Public Diplomacy activities to a large extent as well. So I think that’s something we’ll be looking at, certainly here.
Back the—and the undersecretary continues to play a convening role, or that the acting authority in that role continues to play a convening role, or the acting authority in that role continues to play a convening role in the interagency in terms of coordinating messaging. And I know through my interactions with Assistant Secretary Giuda currently in her role as senior R official, she’s very concerned about message coordination and has shown greater interest in making that work even better.
Judy Moon: Do you want to answer the interagency question or [Crosstalk] well, can I just—
Anne Wedner: Judy, and then we’ll have one more question.
Judy Moon: Just on the part about too much work to do, and not enough people to do it, and that sort of thing. One of the big parts of this for us is to help the PAOs examine what they’re doing and to institutionalize the “why are we doing this, what the benefit is”. So the strategic thinking part is really an important part of what the coaches are talking about, particularly in advance, and the kinds of things that we’ve been working with REU on – also with FSI – to make sure that when we go out, we’re actually all going out with the same messaging. That people are seeing this as a not just the LES staff initiative is here and the REU tools are over there, but that this is the bigger picture about implementing the PD Strategic Framework.
And so if it means centralizing resources, having a smaller team or a more concentrated team that focuses on resources so that your grants implementer, the GOR, is not taking care of the paperwork. The paperwork can be done by someone else who doesn’t have that expertise in reaching an audience. And that follows through in a number of things. But also looking at the programming that you’re doing, whether it’s things that are generated out of Washington or things that are generated at post, and having those conversations both within this section, but also within the mission about, “We have this many work hours. What are our priorities? And what are the things we’re just doing because we’ve been doing them?” They’re feel good things and there may be a reason why a post decides to say yes to that, but we want to have a thoughtful strategic approach to how we choose the programs that we’re doing. Because we want to make sure they’re reaching the right audiences to actually have an impact. And so that kind of thinking is what our coaches are trying to put in the position descriptions and what Paul and his team are trying to – I think – build into a platform so it will help the PAO and the staff to actually make sure that strategic planning happens.
Paul Kruchoski: I’ll do a very fast answer to your question. And the answer is yes on the interagency side.
Anne Wedner: Just one more in the way back.
Audience Question: Hi. I’ll go quickly. I’m Nashaw Disan. I’m from the Department of State from the bureau formally known as the International Information Programs as of this morning. So my question is, can we bring this conversation back into the building? Thank you so much for inviting us here and for having this comprehensive conversation where the integration of the locally employed staffing initiative and the monitoring/evaluation. It’s the first time in my 15-year career that I’ve actually seen this conversation done in such a comprehensive way, and I’m grateful for that. What I’m asking is, can we bring it back to the community, to the PD community at State, but also to the wider community that we partner with—the political, and economic, and management officers and counselors as well? Because we are them, and we can’t do our work without them.
So that’s question number one. The reason why I’m asking this question because I believe—I know I do; I can’t speak for everyone else—we have lots of granular questions. Like how can you change position descriptions of locally employed staff, although they number in the thousands and they outnumber us, when our position descriptions, A, in the field have not yet been changed—Cultural Affairs officers, or Information officers, or Public Affairs officers? And then the larger question of the way we operate here in D.C. now with the merger as of this morning that will also likely shift. But we are working in siloed ways that the position descriptions or the series, the new series do not reflect.
So I think all of us have lots and lots of questions, but this may or may not be the forum for it. Thank you again.
Brian Heath: Well, thanks for those questions. We certainly—we’ve been consultative in the process. But you’re absolutely right. There’s more we can be doing, and I’m glad to hear you found this presentation here informative and useful. And we’ll certainly take that back and maybe try a different approach in general in trying to get things open to the Department community.
Most posts overseas, to your second point about the position descriptions and the effect on the American officers and their position descriptions, most overseas posts have one Public Affairs officer. So that’s not to belittle the fact that there aren’t posts where you have more than one, and that as you reorganize, how that that section’s organized is going to have an effect on those Americans officers.
As Judy indicated, that is something we want to take on, and at least up until now, it’s been a question of bandwidth. We’re being forced to face that question now in China. China is the biggest post to date. We’re implementing the locally employed staff initiative. So there are any number of unique issues we’re facing there, including a fairly significant changes to some of the American officer portfolios. So that will inform, moving forward, what we do with American officer positions I think both in the short-term and the long-term. I don’t know if you want to add anything.
Judy Moon: Yeah. One thing that we learned as a result of starting in China is just how much flexibility there is in officers’ work requirements, essentially. Our formal post-specific position descriptions are things that you’ve probably never seen before. The average PD officer never sees their position description. And when we started down that road, we realized that this actually leads us in a direction that has a lot to do with HR, and recruitment, and things like that. What are the criteria for becoming a FS-01 versus becoming a FS-02? Which is not the granularity that we need for with this particular LE effort, although, as I said, we definitely need to go there.
So we found that in the China case, through consultations with the various HR offices, that there is a lot of flexibility at the post level and considerable post discretion in terms of allotting portfolios. And what we see, sort of our vision for the long-term, is that a PD officer would be assigned a portfolio rather than having a title, like Cultural Affairs Officer. They will all be Public Diplomacy Officers, and they will have a portfolio, much as an economics officer would, or a political officer would, or some others.
What local titles they use in the country where they are posted is up to the PAO. That has always been true, and it’s what actually describes the work that you’re doing best wherever you are. But quite honestly, the name Cultural Affairs Officer tells the average person very little about what the person does in the section. It’s the same for the title Information Officer, or even a Cultural Affairs Assistant. That doesn’t really tell much to anybody. So posts have been using local terminology for what they do anyway. What we need to figure out is, and I think we’ll be able to do this just because the sheer number of officers in Beijing, what we need to do is to come up with some suggestions for how a post might address portfolios for PD officers at their post in terms of work requirements.
Anne Wedner: Regretfully, I have to cut it off there. You guys are free to come up and pigeonhole the panelists at this time. I’m on the edge. But this was a really valuable discussion, and I think it highlights—I’m going to tutor on one a little bit and just why the Commission is such an important part of the Public Diplomacy conversation is that we are able to bring together these kinds of conversations, and give you a deeper look, and expose ideas that aren’t often not exposed. So I appreciate us and I appreciate Jeff so much for—he’s dug in and led us in this time of transition, and all that. And Ryan as well. So many, many thanks to you guys.
So we’re going to meet again in the summer, and I hope that you all are going to come back for that discussion. I think that we’ve been working on—Ryan has been working on a study on Public Diplomacy programs and outreach to counter state-sponsored disinformation. And hopefully this summer we’ll be able to present that. I think that’s a really relevant and important topic. But again, thank you guys for coming. We’ll get the date out for that as soon as we can. And I appreciate so much the panel. You guys did a really great job. And I’m sorry that we didn’t have more time.
Sim Farar: Thank you very much.