The second meeting of the European Digital Diplomacy Exchange (EDDE) project Steering Board took place in Washington D.C. from 30th September to 4th October 2019 in order to review the project efforts within the current year, address future challenges with an outlook to the sustainability of the project and to build beneficial partnerships with institutions, who are experts in the field of digital diplomacy and countering disinformation.
The first day of the meeting was an opportunity for the Steering Board to review the efforts within the EDDE project that were implemented in the current year, discuss trends and opportunities within the profession and most importantly, to find solutions for challenges ahead of the project. The group was then included in a presentation and open discussion with Mr. Samaruddin Stewart, Media Technologist, who presented the use of Google tools in the context of media reporting, a practical skill set that can also be of high value for governmental communicators within their everyday profession. The official program of the day concluded with a guided tour of the U.S. capital, the home of the United States Congress and the seat of the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government, which offered an interesting background and historical overview of Washington D.C. as the political epicentre of the United States of America.
The second day of the meeting took place within the U.S. Department of state, with presentations and open discussions from various offices within the institution. Their line of work tackles the topics of governmental communication, transparency building through the communication with audiences, efforts of countering disinformation and many other skillsets that offer motivation and inspiration for the EDDE project, but also an opportunity for joint cooperation in the future. The program continued with an evening reception at the Embassy of Slovenia in the United States of America. The guests were addressed by Mr. Ambassador Stanislav Vidovič and Ms Katja Geršak, CEP Executive director.
Wednesday presented the third day of the Steering board meeting with the continuation of fruitful meetings. The morning session took place within the Atlantic Council, a prominent think thank in the field of international relations who shared their experience of digital communication strategies, success stories of their communication campaigns, proactive resilience building against disinformation and other activities. The afternoon session included an open discussion with Professor Steven Livingston who is cooperating with the George Washington University School od Media and Public Affairs. The research of their team addresses disinformation campaigns present online and on multiple social media platforms, researching narratives from different aspects, all bringing to a better understanding of the phenomenon.
After successful meetings with governmental communicators, representatives of think tanks and Accademia, a cooperation with tech companies who actively shape the information environment of today, was a systematic next step for the study visit. The Washington D.C. Facebook outpost hosted the Steering Board on Thursday. The EDDE representatives were informed on new technological advancements and content activities, that are enforced by Facebook to secure a safe space where free speech with equal opportunities can take place. Governments and their digital efforts present an important link in the information landscape, that is why close cooperation with tech companies as Facebook is also imperative in the effort to secure transparent communication between governmental outreach and their audience, leading to more efficient and engaging policy making. With the rise of misinformation and disinformation campaigns, safeguarding the integrity of information is also becoming a high-stake objective, a challenge that can only be addressed by the common needs and strengths of the audiences, governments, tech companies, think thanks, academia and other stakeholders.
Friday marked the fifth and final day of the Steering Board meeting with close attention to the achievements and skillsets gained during the Washington study visit. The sharing of best practices, future EDDE activities planned and ideas to address common challenges have offered a strong base for future cooperation in activities taking place within the EDDE project.
The project is organised as a joint cooperation between the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Embassy in Ljubljana and the Centre for European Perspective. The activities are only a part of a series of events that will take place in the year 2019, building on past experience and motivation to contribute to the rapidly changing field of digital diplomacy.