Thinking Uncategorized

Do It Yourself Foreign Policy: notes on @SlaughterAM’s talk at the Personal Democracy Forum 2011

Much of what this blog’s going to be about is not actually technology.

The technology isn’t the important bit – it’s what the tech allows us to do. And right now, that’s about social networks. And connections. And everything Anne Marie Slaughter talks about in her Personal Democracy Forum 2011 talk below.

I liked it so much it’s this blog’s first post. Here’s a very quick precis of Anne’s talk:

  • until now it’s essentially been a small clicque of men who drive foreign policy, each representing one nation and fighting for its own separate interests
  • today we don’t start from separation, we can start from connection. Now you define who you are in relation to others.
  • the world of nation states still exists, but there are growing number of charities, social action groups, civil society groups, religious groups, private corporations, trying to get involved at the global level. At the big institutions, these are called non-state actors. As Clay Shirky says: ‘calling these things non-state actors is like calling an automobile a horseless carriage.’
  • women get this better than men. Women have often been defined by their relationships, or define themselves that way, see feminist Carol Gilligan – today there is also a generational gap in this way we perceive ourselves.
  • so now we have governments and a growing set of social actors, connected in ever-changing ways and ever changing identities.
  • Christakis and Fowler showed that you can join up individuals in different ways: connect in a linear fashion = bucket chain, telephone tree = efficient dissemination of information, etc
  • the Mr Y article (full pdf) written by two senior members of the US military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, essentially says the world has moved from a closed system to an open system, and in an open system, having power means having credible influence. We can no longer control by force. The US has to (again) be the most connected and influential nation.

So here’s what we do to address global problems

  • with any global issue the goal is to map the space and connect enough people to mobilise to create the solutions to address those problems. 
  • this happens in these case studies [Ed: not sure these are the big global problems] AirBnB (expensive couchsurfing), Zinch (all US scholarships in one place), Interaction (network of 190 US NGOs), Global Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves [that’s a global issue], Partners for a New Beginning (US State Dept attempt to encourage public/private partnerships that deepen links between US and ‘local communities abroad’). [Ed: I’d look at things like Ushahidi, Avaaz, maybe charity:water – but more blog posts to follow on these, esp. Avaaz)

“Here’s the bottom line:”

we imagined that we lived in a world of closed opaque orbs – states that pursued national interest – now we live in a world of ‘open system’ foreign policy with infinite possibilities of connecting. Global problems are open problems – we as a world have to grapple with these. By mapping, linking and creating we can create the coalitions to address them.


build local, go global, and change the world

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