Hacking Diplomacy

The Asialink Diplomacy Lab will stress-test Australian diplomacy by conducting a policy 'hackathon'.

On 22 February, Asialink will be partnering with PwC to host an expert consultation for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). With the government preparing a new foreign policy White Paper, this consultation will provide an opportunity to generate fresh ideas for Australian diplomacy. Bringing together delegates from different sectors, Asialink will coordinate a review of key trends across the region and identify new ways to conduct foreign policy in Asia.     

The new White Paper comes at a time when traditional instruments of diplomacy are struggling to connect with an emerging, middle-class Asia. Profound changes across the region’s demographic, technological and environmental landscape are diffusing power away from policymakers and diplomats.

High-level dialogue with government leaders remains a crucial tool for foreign policy, but Track II diplomacy needs to incorporate smaller networks of influence and expertise which are also shaping politics and security. Asia is populated with new voices and thinkers who operate beyond formal channels of diplomacy including social media influencers, digital communities, and online activists.

In light of this challenge, the Asialink Diplomacy Lab is developing a more experimental process for engaging Asia. Aside from experts in business, health, education, culture and security, the consultation will also draw on a dedicated ‘youth stream’. This group will stress-test Australian diplomacy by conducting a policy hackathon.

In advance of the consultation, youth delegates are being asked to supply one key idea to jumpstart regional collaboration. The Diplomacy Lab will source and curate submissions by selecting three proposals for the delegates to consider. These ideas will be pitched to youth steam at the beginning of the day before delegates separate into three dedicated working groups, which each ‘hacking’ one problem. A break-out discussion will develop these ideas and compare them with recent DFAT initiatives.

This innovative process can leverage the range of professional interests and backgrounds of younger leaders with emerging expertise in Asia. Each group will prepare and deliver a one-minute pitch of their final policy idea to the delegates at the consultation. This will inject new energy into the consultation and help to revitalise Australia’s strategy for a more disruptive Asia.

The Australian governments foreign policy white paper initiative aims to develop a comprehensive framework to guide Australia's international engagement over the next five to ten years. Read more here.

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David Schaefer

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