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Transparency Begins at Home

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Looking for transparency in government? Then start by promoting transparency within government. Government agencies whose organizational culture creates information silo and perpetuate a need-to-know approach to critical knowledge are unlikely to embrace transparency with the public.

The State Department is the oldest executive agency in the United States. Cold war secrecy created a need-to-know culture that impeded unofficial information sharing. State’s diplomatic corps is selected for risk aversion and trained to obtain many clearances and authorizations before officially transmitting information internally.

Then the end of the Cold War was followed by the East Africa embassy bombings and 9/11. The paradigm shifted. The lack of information sharing and collaboration meant that puzzle pieces remain scattered and threats were unidentified. In this shift, the State Department’s office of eDiplomacy was born.

In the intervening years, eDiplomacy initiatives have included:

  • Diplopedia – State’s enterprise wiki with over 10,000 articles is viewed by State employees over 35,000 times a week.
  • Communities @ State – 64 blog-based online communities, with another 20 communities in the works. State employees have posted over 32,000 entries / comments to these blogs, thereby significantly expanding State Department and interagency information sharing and collaboration.
  • The Secretary’s Sounding Board – A tremendously popular idea generation and management platform through which nearly one thousand State employees have submitted suggestions for improving the Department and over four thousand comments have been registered on these ideas. Dozens of ideas have been implemented through unstructured collaboration and coordination.
  • Coming soon, a Social Networking Platform – A survey of over 900 State employees found a high demand for a “StateBook” behind the firewall.

Beyond highlighting some of eDiplomacy’s tools, this presentation will explore evidence of a cultural evolution at State arising from the growing dissemination and success of these collaboration and information sharing platforms.

Photo of Richard Boly

Richard Boly

U.S. Department of State

Richard Boly a career U.S. diplomat and currently the Director of the Office of eDiplomacy, an applied technology think tank for the U.S. Department of State. Previously, he was a National Security Affairs Fellow the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, where he launched the Global Entrepreneurship Program. He recently served in U.S. Embassy, Rome, where he developed and ran a program to promote entrepreneurship in Italy. Other embassy assignments include the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Paraguay. Richard is the most junior diplomat to win the Cobb Award for commercial diplomacy. In a prior life, he was the first Presidential Management Fellow with the Inter-American Foundation, was a consultant with the Inter-American Development Bank, and founded and ran a shrimp hatchery in coastal Ecuador. He is a graduate of Stanford University and the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at UCSD.

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