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April 3: Community Summit on Citizen Diplomacy

More information will appear about this very important event shortly

When: Monday April 3, Time TBA (in the afternoon, approximately 2-3 hours long)

Where: Indianapolis Civic Theatre at Marian College 3200 Cold Springs Road, Indianapolis

Some background to this event. The Coalition for Citizen Diplomacy has launched a national campaign to increase dramatically the ability of Americans to engage with the global community through international dialogue and exchanges. At the forefront of the campaign is a series of Community Summits being held across the United States, which will culminate in a National Summit on Citizen Diplomacy in Washington, D.C. in July 2006. Community Summits help raise public awareness of the international interests of the host community and provide a forum for participants to exchange perspectives on issues that affect the community’s global engagement. The Summits will also serve to identify and expand resources and partnerships, to build a network of like-minded citizens, and to propose action plans that will be presented at the National Summit.

Here's why this Indianapolis Summit on April 3rd matters very much. "Citizen diplomacy" is stronger here than in many other communities. If you want a flavor, just check out the articles by Fran Quigley in NUVO ... there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of local efforts to address international issues. Look at the program IU Medical School has in Kenya, or the Nigerian village Scott Pegg has adopted, or the work the Rotary Club has been doing in Jamaica for a decade. Churches, schools, colleges, service clubs, ethnic associations, businesses ... all forming connections with counterparts around the world. And they are just dispensing warm and fuzzy hugs to the world. They are working hard with their local partners to solve problems -- providing HIV/AIDS treatment, assisting poor women set up businesses with microloans, pitching in to help build orphanages and repair hurricane damage ... and in many cases they are more effective than "official" aid coming out of DC.

I call these local-to-local partnerships to solve global problems. These, I think, are different than what the Coalition for Citizen Diplomacy means by the idea of "citizen diplomacy." These aren't exchanges to foster mutual understanding, although they try to do that. These partnerships are carrying out independent nongovernmental foreign policies, not only "diplomacy."

That means this summit could be quite important for helping connect and mobilize these independent initiatives. It could be a way to frame more purposefully and intentionally the discussions across Indianapolis this spring that IndyBuzz has been laying out.

A couple of organizations, Americans for Informed Democracy and Citizens for Global Solutions, will help us use the opportunity of this summit to provide communication and strategic training for "citizen diplomats," for students and community leaders who are represent to world to Indiana and Indiana to the world. Both training programs draw from a package called US in the World that looks very good, you should check it out. And stay tuned for details.

Congressman Dan Burton, chair of the Western Hemisphere subcommittee on the House International Relations committee, will be the keynote speaker of the summit. Cost: $10 per person ($5 per student), details for registration to follow.

Check back with IndyBuzz on this one, it should be big.

In the meantime, if you would like more information on this concept, I would recommend reading up on "public diplomacy." USC has a special program in public diplomacy that has a lot of interesting news and articles. If you want an idea of what the US government thinks, check out the page for Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes. The Rand Corporation came out with a study, "Public Diplomacy: How to Think About and Improve It." Retired employees of the US Information Agency (the official wing of old-style public diplomacy, aka propaganda) have information, as does a report by the Council on Foreign Relations on communicating better with Muslims. As I say, the groups here in town fully engaged in solving problems are doing deeper and more effective work than this.

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