I needed some cheer on this rainy Friday in Washington, and I found something that put me in a better mood. A government report.
- American Spaces, the collection of places where people overseas can learn about America, are growing faster than the weeds in my yard. Last year, visitor numbers increased to 58 million — 32 percent over the year before.
- Local governments are hosting 84 percent of these centers in partnership with our embassies.
- These physical platforms are attracting government entities, private companies and cross-border alliances into new collaborative ventures that promote American ideas.
American Spaces’ annual report prompted a review by the Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy last week, where a USAID official said the agency was convening local implementing agencies to “co-create projects.” A State Department panelist said that in Moscow, a provisional American Center on the embassy compound attracted 25 thousand visitors to some 1100 events last year. Young Muscovites defied their government to visit “a small corner of America in Russia.”
All this cost less than $14 million. The Bureau of International Information Programs channeled that support into every world region, focusing on locations of highest strategic priority. The Smithsonian Institution has provided design aids and program packages for the effort, which you can see on the website that centers themselves use.
As the fourth day of driving rain spatters my windows, I’m thinking about the programs going on right now around the world. Like the cockpit demonstrator that Lockheed-Martin made available to Indonesian kids in @America, our center in a Jakarta shopping mall.
But you’ll have your own favorite if you read the report, which is chock full of pictures. No matter the weather where you are today, check it out.
Joe B. Johnson consults on government communication and technology after a career in the United States Foreign Service and seven years in the private sector. He is an instructor for the National Foreign Affairs Training Center, where he teaches strategic planning for public diplomacy. Read More