On May 4th, Under Secretary for Management John Bass recognized the winners of the Department’s inaugural Data for Diplomacy Awards. In support of the Secretary’s modernization agenda, the Department’s Enterprise Data Strategy, and Agency Priority Goal for Data Informed Diplomacy , the Enterprise Data Council created the awards to recognize individuals and groups that made major strides in leveraging data as a strategic asset in support of the Department’s mission. The awardees demonstrated significant creativity and success in making data and data analytics accessible, interoperable, and actionable for their bureau, office, post, or across the enterprise. The ceremony was held during a Department-wide Data Day celebration, which enabled employees to learn from leadership how data is transforming diplomacy.
Recognizing our team’s great work is crucial to promoting a modernization culture in any organization. When I began my job as the Department’s first Chief Data Officer last year, I knew from day one that great work and innovation were taking place across the Department, and I was eager to learn about it in order to leverage and maximize it. With the help of my Enterprise Data Council colleagues, we created a way to do just that: find and reward great work in the name of data. We took a chance and created the Data for Diplomacy Awards program without really knowing what to expect. Would we get a lot of submissions? Would they focus on policy or just data-rich management functions?
It is no secret that the Department of State is home to bright, talented public servants. I’m thrilled to share that this experiment proved that and then some. The inaugural Data for Diplomacy Awards drew an overwhelming 118 submissions from 42 locations across the globe with projects ranging from strategy to public diplomacy programming, hiring and promotions, COVID monitoring, visa tracking, American citizen services during crisis, conflict trend monitoring and assessment, financial management, and so much more. And this is what emerged in just in the first year of this new awards program!
Two projects that highlight the diversity in winning projects include Embassy Panama’s work to monitor and measure their Integrated Country Strategy (ICS), and the Bureau of Global Talent Management’s (GTM) effort that leveraged data to identify success indicators in foreign service application materials. The GTM project has saved the Department over $12M in staff time to date, improved the interview pass rate of candidates from 40% to 60%, and led GTM to implement a procedure which took 1.5 months off the application and hiring process.
Embassy Panama’s project was particularly exciting because – let’s face it – strategy and diplomacy are not always easy to measure. The entrepreneurial team there devised a way to enable data-informed decision making by aligning INL programs and metrics to monitor progress against Embassy Panama’s ICS objectives. Their work has created solutions and positive outcomes for issues such as data availability, data quality, creating a data culture, and improved decision making. Other positive outcomes in data sharing and improved decision-making include using regional cocaine trend data to create regional initiatives with interagency partners to address the balloon effect of narcotrafficking. This hugely impactful project serves as a field-tested model of how to overcome the challenge of using data to drive mission strategy.
There isn’t enough time or space to properly convey the depth and breadth of amazing data work taking place in every corner of the Department – and this work matters. Data is the Department’s most strategic asset and is a powerful tool in the hands of our employees. Having the right information for making policy and management decisions saves time, money, and frustration. Being able to measure these successful decisions and processes takes this even further. When Department employees use data in impactful ways, innovation flourishes, and everyone wins – the Department, the employee, and the American taxpayer.
Learn more about The Office of Management Strategy and Solutions’ Center for Analytics here.
About the Author: Dr. Matthew Graviss is the Chief Data Officer at the U.S. Department of State.