Conversations in Diplomacy: Alec Ross

| Jan. 30, 2012 Series: Conversations in Diplomacy


Since 2009, Alec Ross, Senior Advisor on Innovation at the State Department, has been working to try to reimagine the way that diplomacy works. “During the first two years…we were very much focused on developing [new] projects,” he relates, while “where we are now is we’re very focused on institutionalization—taking some of the neat stuff that we did that was high impact…[and] weaving them into the formal practice of diplomacy at the State Department.”

Speaking with Future of Diplomacy Project Executive Director Cathryn Clüver, Ross also shared his unique perspective on the role that technology played in the rise and development of the Arab Spring. One of the most important effects that 21st century innovations contributed was that “they accelerated movement making. Movements could be built quicker than ever before,” However, he warned that the effect of this going forward may not be entirely without its consequences. “[Social Media] led to what I would call relative leaderlessness…the accelerated nature meant that institutions did not develop.” In the absence institutions like entrenched political parties or movements committed to democratic governance, Ross cautioned that “it still remains to be seen the degree to which [social media] can be used to build government.”

For the full interview with Alex Ross, including more on the evolving role on technology in 21st century diplomacy, listen to the entire podcast by clicking on the Youtube link above.


Conversations in Diplomacy is the Future of Diplomacy Project's Podcast Series. The podcasts bring together policymakers, academics, and professionals from around the world of international relations for candid discussions of pressing topics in world affairs.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Hobbs, Charles and Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook. “Conversations in Diplomacy: Alec Ross.” News, , January 30, 2012.

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