U.S. Public Diplomacy’s Neglected Mandate: Advancing Mutual Understanding

Past Principal Investigator:
Kathy R. Fitzpatrick, CPD Research Fellow, 2009-2011

Past Contributing Researcher:
Candace Burnham

CPD Research Fellowship Publications:
U.S. Public Diplomacy in a Post- 9/11 World: From Messaging to Mutuality CPD Perspectives on Public DiplomacySeptember 2011.
U.S. Public Diplomacy's Neglected Domestic Mandate CPD Perspectives on Public Diplomacy, October 2010

The concept of "mutual understanding" has long been part of the United States' public diplomacy official mandate. Yet American public diplomacy practices over the years have focused on increasing the understanding of the United States among foreign publics and have completely ignored the need to promote understanding of foreign nations among Americans themselves. So why has this "second mandate" of public diplomacy been neglected - and more importantly, how can we establish mutual understanding going forward? This study attempted to answer these questions using a two-phased research study that examined issues related to mutuality in U.S. public diplomacy.

The first phase focused on increasing knowledge and understanding of the second or domestic mandate of U.S. public diplomacy. The official underpinnings of mutuality in U.S. public diplomacy were examined as were the factors that have influenced the thinking and practices related to U.S. public diplomacy's charge to enhance Americans' knowledge and understanding of the world and its citizens. Research findings were reported in a white paper on the scope and status of U.S. public diplomacy's domestic mandate.

The second phase constituted a “model of mutuality” that advanced U.S. public diplomacy's domestic mandate going forward. This research addressed the need for a stronger conceptual foundation for thinking and practices in U.S. public diplomacy and suggested principles of mutuality that recognize both the increasing importance of relationship management in public diplomacy and a need for greater attention to domestic publics.