I attended the first day of the Marshall Conference on Citizen Diplomacy at the State Department on Thursday. While I believe there was a lot to be learned, I also feel that, much like Public Diplomacy, nobody could give a clear answer on what their idea of Citizen Diplomacy was. The audience was given the responses of "anyone with a passport" to "US citizens partnering with the government" and then the all-encompassing "I perform citizen diplomacy with every action, every day". To be honest, I was hoping for a little more from the conference overall, and then I got my chance to ask a question to the panel:
"Since there have been such successes with citizen and cultural diplomacy when they are not related directly to the government, how would the government be able to utilize these aspects of diplomacy without tainting it by the generally negative opinion abroad of the US government."
The answer I received?
In a nutshell, it was, Public Diplomacy needs to participate in more listening. Although we've mentioned that it's obvious, it's nice to hear statements like these coming directly from a conference related somewhat to the government and not only P.D. scholars and analysts. Now, we will see if there is any follow-through and if this thought is put into practice.