Analysis & Opinions - The New York Times

The World Needs a Long-Term Strategy for Defeating Extremism

| December 8, 2015

Technological changes have drastically reduced the size of the globe. The rapid growth of digtal connectivity has allowed information to spread at a previously unknown pace and has lead to greater transparency by governments and greater civic engagement by populations across the globe. This increased access to information has also made an already complex world even more complicated. What do these technoogical changes mean for decision making in foreign policy? How does one identify and then reconcile foreign policy interests with the growing number of stakeholders in the international arena? And how can foreign policy leaders drive structural and cultural change in their organizations?

These questions are at the core of the study "Networked Foreign Policy for the 21st Century. How leaders can drive change in the digital age." Together with the Future of Diplomacy Project at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and the School of Public Policy at Central European University, LEAD interviewed 25 decision makers - primarily from Germany - from various sectors including ministries, trade associations, leading foreign policy politicians, civil society, and the private sector. In order to explore the consequences of growing global digitilization, the partners also conducted an analysis of social media networks (Twitter, Facebook, and internet forums/message boards), using German-Turkish relations as a case study.

Chapter 1 highlights six critical challenges for foreign policy leaders in the 21st century: Digitalization is accelerating the pace of foreign policy. New stakeholders are demanding a greater say in forign policy as actors in their own right. The division between foreign and domestic policy is becoming blurred. The emergence of complex challenges that require an immediate response makes strategic planning almost impossible. The dramatic changes that often take place during a crisis and LEAD Research Series p.3 the growing plurality and diversity of actors make central coordination unweildy and, in some cases, impossible. While these changes affect most foreign minitries across the globe, Germany is facing additional pressure because of demands from its international allies that it play a more prominent global role.

Chapter 2 highlights the inadequate response of German ministries and foreign policy organizations to these challenges. Current leadership practices in the foreign policy arena are inappropriate for the digital age. A broader examiniation shows that in adapting to new realities, German foreign policy leaders do not have to reinvent the wheel. Instead, they can adopt and modify strategies that have been successfully piloted elsewhere.

Chapter 3 offers five strategies for leaders who want to drive change in German foreign policy institutions: Clarify your organization's purpose and mission; Set clearly defined goals and adjust continuously; Adopt new (digital) ways of gathering information; Invest in building effective networks; and build learning adaptable, and resilient institutions to shape robust policy. For each strategy, we suggest specific actions and provide examples of international best practices. An overview of the five strategies and their action points can be found on pages 24-25.

The conclusion: Adapting foreign policy organizations to the realities of the digital age is first and foremost a leadership question: Only with the right personnel in leadership positions within the organization can a resilient internal culture based on trust and individual agency flourish. Robust institutions are those that internalize change and empower their employees and stakehoders while creating space for risk-taking and failure - two things that are critical to building a learning organization.

In the annexes, we provide sector-specific recommendations for leaders at the German Federal Foreign Office, in civil society, and in the private sector. We offer guidance on how best to begin thinking about strategic monitoring of social media, illustrated specifically through an analysis of German-Turkish relations in social media.

This study and its recommendations target leaders of organizations that are active in foreign policy. The focus is on contemporary leadership within foreign policy organization, not on the wider dimension of the leadership role that Germany should play in the world.

For more information on this publication: Please contact Future of Diplomacy Project
For Academic Citation: Pandith, Farah.“The World Needs a Long-Term Strategy for Defeating Extremism.” The New York Times, December 8, 2015.