I recently saw a job posted by an embassy in Washington, DC, looking for someone to help with youth engagement across the United States. Since this is an area I am passionate about, I immediately began brainstorming. The three ideas that I think have the most potential utilize social media, Model UN, and teacher materials.
Most embassies already use social media as a tool for digital diplomacy. Personnel could use that to engage with both students and teachers across the United States. For example, I was able to have somebody from the Italian Embassy speak to my students via Skype (not exactly social media, but still a form of engagement via the internet). Additionally, embassies, or their consulates, could hold Twitter chats. If they have exchange programs, they could encourage students to post photos to Instagram or Flickr.
Model UN is an opportunity for students to be engaged in international politics, diplomacy, and global issues in an academic setting. There are a number of conferences held across the country each year from coast to coast, including at least two in Washington, DC. These would be great opportunities for embassies to hold sessions on their role in the world and international organizations. As our school’s Model UN advisor, I try to set up trips to the consulates in Chicago when we attend the conferences there. In the past, we’ve visited the consulates for Greece, Canada, and Mexico. All of the trips were 1-2 hours long and provided students an opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the respective countries.
Finally, one of the most effective ways to reach students is through their teachers. Reaching one high school teacher, for example, means reaching approximately one hundred students. If embassies had lesson plans on their country, relations with the US, or more, it would exponentially increase its reach among American youth. For example, the UK embassy could create lesson plans for AP Comparative Government and Politics (as it is one of the six countries teachers are mandated to teach), AP US History, AP European History, AP English Lit, and so on. When I taught my students about the UK under Thatcher, I used videos from The Specials and Madness.
These are just three ideas that embassies in Washington, DC, could use to engage American students. If you’ve got any other ideas, please feel free to share them in the comments section.
Thanks for reading.