Why I felt limited Joining the Diplomatic Service.
My journey to becoming a diplomatic entrepreneur began representing Britain at the United Nations COP15 in Copenhagen. It was one of the most important international summits of my generation and it resulted in failure. Little consensus. No binding agreement. Zero care. It was the first time I would confront the limitations faced by the diplomatic service.
I founded Grassroot Diplomat to strengthen the relationship between governments and civil society as global riots started to become the norm for young people voicing their frustrations to governments. Over the past few years, Grassroot Diplomat has evolved as a brand that serves the diplomatic community to ensure that governments are effectively representing their people both at home and abroad. This means modernising how diplomats operate with investors and communities, making embassies actively visible, helping countries break stereotypes and misconceptions about themselves through public diplomacy activities, and re-purposing their focus so that their people are not an afterthought to their job.
My consultancy tackles various angles to improve an already established system. We work with a range of stakeholders to rebuild the roles of diplomats and help them to be effective change-makers for the growth of their country.
Diplomacy is an ancient system that will always have its links with trade and investment, but my mission is to change how diplomacy operates on the international scene to help countries gain traction within the market. I want to create a strong roster of positive role models at government level who can successfully sell their countries as nation brand ambassadors. I want to develop digital embassies so that official embassies truly are the first point of information for business, citizens and tourists. I want investments to always have a social element so that a percentage of profits go towards improving human development instead of breeding a culture of greed and corruption. I want government representatives and associates to purposely be a ‘Grassroot Diplomat’ by adopting a practice that demonstrates them putting the people’s interest first to strengthen their country and society.
At COP15 in Copenhagen I was reporting with an NGO, privately meeting with senior diplomats and representing the voice of civil society from within the negotiations. I was shocked to learn how ninety per cent of diplomats I came in contact with were unwilling to deviate from the brief they were given prior to the conference. In practice, they didn’t even have to listen to what other countries had to say about the matter because the national interest was pre-determined by HQ, irrespective of the conference. What is national interest if it isn’t about the people and why have summits when no one listens?
If diplomats are instructed to stick to a script, irrespective of the arguments they confront, the international community will never progress. No leadership. No security. Full control but zero authority. As a trained diplomat, I always assumed that my job would be to represent the people of my country but this message didn’t translate well when I worked in my government and trained at several multilateral institutions. Systems within governments are bureaucratic to prevent change. Innovation in the system is hindered to make way for corporate lobbyists. I quickly realised how restricted diplomats are in their roles and how disconnected our leaders are in representing their people on the global stage. I decided I could add more value by stepping outside the traditional diplomatic route.
My role is to assist and to innovate. My role is to evolve the status quo so that diplomats may once again become effective role players for their country.
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Founder and Executive Director