Since 9/11 experts have been concerned about the effectiveness of US public diplomacy and strategic communications. Numerous task forces, commissions, and studies have been undertaken to address the issue. Over 15 major studies have recommended in one form or another, the creation of a stand-alone public/private organization to communicate with, engage, and influence foreign audiences. Recommended funding sources include contributions from the corporate and foundation sectors and an annual congressional appropriation.
Up to now these recommendations have been theoretical and never taken to the implementation stage. Through assembling a bipartisan coalition of stakeholders to develop a detailed business plan and framework this initiative aims to finally establish and operationalize such an organization. This course of action is similar to the process that resulted in the establishment of the National Endowment for Democracy.
In July 2010, the McArthur Foundation joined with the Wilson Center to host a dinner that included key Obama Administration officials to discuss this initiative. In September, 2010, the project launched with the Woodrow Wilson Center serving as the convener and initial funding provided by the Smith Richardson Foundation. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Secretary of Defense William Perry are honorary co-chairs, and the bipartisan Working Group includes more than 80 experts and practitioners from across the political and ideological spectrums, drawn from the private sector, government, Congress, think tanks, media, academe, foundations and NGOs. The business plan will determine in detail the mission, structure, programs, target markets, and budget of the organization.
Working Group members are lending their time and expertise to conduct research and interviews and develop briefing papers and memoranda pertaining to each individual segment of the business plan and to agree on a final set of recommendations.
The Working Group is divided into five independent subcommittees with responsibility to build one component of the business plan during a six-month period, with a chair to organize the work and to represent the committee on an Executive Board responsible for the final structure of the plan. Each subcommittee is focused on one of the following components of the business plan:
- Mission and governance
- Operating budget
- Target markets, networks & countries
- Types and nature of programs & activities
- Development & identification of corporate, foundation and public sector partners
After the Executive Board presents their consensus-based findings to the co-chairs the end product will be a published, publicly released business plan ready for presentation to the Administration and Congress. Once the entity gets off the ground, it is expected that support will emanate from the federal government, foundations, and the private sector.
This proposal does not set out to be just another 'study'. The purpose of this exercise is to tap the best thinking of a broad, diverse and bipartisan set of experts and practitioners from across sectors to actually implement the recommendations of so many previous studies: the creation of an independent organization for public diplomacy and strategic communication. The goal is for all stakeholders to view this project as their own and take a personal and organizational interest in its creation.
As envisioned, the organization will:
- be non-partisan and transcend Administrations
- serve as an essential vehicle for public diplomacy and strategic communications by tapping the creativity and innovation of the private sector but not duplicate what already exists in government
- facilitate better coordination and implementation around public-private partnerships on issues related to global engagement,
- provide the Departments of State, Defense and other agencies an additional powerful, structured, and long-lasting tool to respond to our nation's requirements for informing, engaging, and influencing large swaths of foreign audiences.
How best to enhance and strengthen America's Public Diplomacy and Strategic Communication are critical national security issues and nine years after 9/11, it is finally time to take this significant step in better engaging and informing foreign audiences.