Foreign Policy Blogs

Global Pulse 2010: Online Development Dialogue

Global Pulse Website

For the past three days I participated in USAID’s online dialogue about various international development topics.  Called “Global Pulse 2010, “ USAID has the following to say about it:

...a 3-day, online collaboration event, that will bring together individual socially-engaged participants and organizations from around the world. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is sponsoring the Global Pulse 2010, in partnership with the Departments of State, Education, Commerce, and Health and Human Services.

As the name implies, the event will take the pulse of thousands of participants on key issues facing communities around the world. Global Pulse 2010 will connect participants who are champions for the same social issues to build new, or strengthen existing relationships, and inform U.S. foreign assistance and diplomatic strategies on major themes and ideas that emerge across the span of the event.

According to Josh Miller at Devex, the inspiration for Global Pulse 2010 came from Barack Obama himself:

Last year in Cairo, President Barack Obama pledged to engage the global community in shaping his administration’s approach to foreign assistance. So, USAID, along with other government agencies, began brainstorming – or “imagineering ” – means to make that happen.

Miller explains how it worked:

To populate and power its jam, USAID issued an open invitation to people interested in international development. Inside, participants, or “jammers,” interact with other attendees, facilitators and distinguished guests — from USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah to best-selling author Deepak Chopra — on around 10 core topics: empowering women and girls; enabling essential education; building stronger partnerships; exercising political and civil rights; inspiring a new generation; promoting global health; advancing entrepreneurship, trade and economic opportunity; foster science, technology and innovation; supporting a sustainable planet; and, pursuing grand challenges. Jammers are given individual accounts and may track particular personalities and dialogues that they find pertinent.

As of 6 p.m. of March 30, more than 11,000 jammers from upwards of 150 countries had combined to write approximately 7,000 posts. The discussion threads will remain available to registered attendees even after the event concludes.

I found it interesting to be a jammer (so called because the dialogue used IBM’s jam technology)  and the level of discussion was generally very good to excellent.  I participated in a fascinating conversation on the role of contractors in development and also the usefulness of higher education partnerships in support of development goals.  Overall, it seemed to be an excellent way to use technology as part of global engagement.  I will be curious to see how the ideas gathered in this exercise will be used to inform policy or at least the debates about real policy issues and choices.  If it does then further editions of Global Pulse 2010 will attract even more attention.  If there is no effect then I suspect that it will be seen as a high-tech novelty that amounted to little more than a talking shop.  But I am willing to give the organizers the benefit of the doubt. This first step was done very well and I look forward to the next.



James Ketterer

James Ketterer is Dean of International Studies at Bard College and Director of the Bard Globalization and International Affairs program. He previously served as Egypt Country Director for AMIDEAST, based in Cairo and before that as Vice Chancellor for Policy & Planning and Deputy Provost at the State University of New York (SUNY). In 2007-2008 he served on the staff of the Governor’s Commission on Higher Education. He previously served as Director of the SUNY Center for International Development.

Ketterer has extensive experience in technical assistance for democratization projects, international education, legislative development, elections, and policy analysis – with a focus on Africa and the Middle East. He has won and overseen projects funded by USAID, the Department for International Development (UK), the World Bank and the US State Department. He served on the National Security Council staff at the White House, as a policy analyst at the New York State Senate, a project officer with the Center for Legislative Development at the University at Albany, and as an international election specialist for the United Nations, the African-American Institute, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. He is currently a Fellow at the Foreign Policy Association and has also held teaching positions in international politics at the New School for Social Research, Bard College, State University of New York at New Paltz, the University at Albany, Russell Sage College, and the College of Saint Rose.

Ketterer has lectured and written extensively on various issues for publications including the Washington Post, Middle East Report, the Washington Times, the Albany Times Union, and the Journal of Legislative Studies. He was a Boren National Security Educational Program Fellow at Johns Hopkins University and in Morocco, an International Graduate Rotary Scholar at the Bourguiba School of Languages in Tunisia, and studied Arabic at the King Fahd Advanced School of Translation in Morocco. He received his education at Johns Hopkins University, New York University and Fordham University.

Areas of focus: Public Diplomacy; Middle East; Africa; US Foreign Policy

Contributor to: Global Engagement