Joseph Nye (2008) identifies three dimensions of public diplomacy: daily communications, strategic communication, and “the development of lasting relationships with key individuals over many years.” This third dimension is facilitated through scholarships, exchanges, training, seminars, conferences, and media (102).
Nye argues that “effective public diplomacy is a two-way street that involves listening as well as talking […] that is why exchanges are often more effective than mere broadcasting” (103). Additionally, “face-to-face communications remain the most effective, but they can be supplemented and reinforced by the Internet.” The Internet provides a virtual space for people to remain connected as well as build new networks (104).
It is important to realize that though exchange is funded by universities, non-profits, and companies, many programs rely heavily on the support of the U.S. government (105). Nye also mentions how publics are often skeptical of governments, thus it is often more effective for governments to work with private actors. He adds that NGOs “can be useful channels of communication,” as they sometimes enjoy a higher level of trust (105). Indirect public diplomacy can also take place through American companies, which sometimes provide sensitivity and communications training to representatives sent abroad. (However, I would argue that this is not necessarily because they are “public-spirited”— cross-cultural training can increase communication effectiveness and, more importantly, can dramatically decrease the rate of premature return, making the training cost-effective.)
In terms of NGO-facilitated exchange, a good example is the National Council for International Visitors (NCIV), whose mission is “to promote excellence in citizen diplomacy.” Celebrating its 50th anniversary next year, NCIV is the private-sector partner of the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). IVLP is a “professional exchange program that seeks to build mutual understanding between the U.S. and other nations through carefully designed short-term visits to the U.S. for current and emerging foreign leaders. These visits reflect the International Visitors’ professional interests and support the foreign policy goals of the United States.”
Citizen exchange promotes U.S. foreign policy goals because it contributes to Nye’s third dimension of public diplomacy: “the development of lasting relationships with key individuals over many years” (102). IVLP alumni have included several Chiefs of State or Heads of Government and Nobel prize winners.
NCIV is a national network of NGOs that host these international visitors and design programs. So while visitors may be chosen by governments, the programs are often designed by NGOs that work to incorporate the professional interests of the visitors. NCIV helps facilitate connections between international visitors and their American counterparts.
Nye, Joseph. “Public Diplomacy and Soft Power,” The ANNALS 2008 616: 94-109.