Diplomacy with Personality

Talyn Rahman-Figueroa, CEO of Grassroot Diplomat, contemplates her greatest vision for diplomacy. Check out her musings in her latest Founder's Blog.

Photo Credit: Redd Angelo

Photo Credit: Redd Angelo

Like millions around the world, I spent the last few weeks observing the holy month of Ramadan. I have kept my head low, my heart open, and my soul filled with light and inspiration. The last few days, I’ve had some deep thoughts about our purpose and the footprints we will leave behind when we are gone.

Just like you, I have many identities. I am a proud modern Muslim. I hail from London with ancestral roots all over Asia and Polynesia. I always wear a bright smile, strutting in trainers instead of heels. I spend all of my spare time playing video games and my waking hours leading Grassroot Diplomat. I eat clean and train dirty. I live sustainably and have a heart for our planet and its living creatures (yes, that includes humans!).

We are multifaceted human beings who represent so many things as citizens of the world, yet when diplomats represent their countries, stats and policies sometimes overlooks the fact that they represent a vessel filled with heart, soul and personality — their people! That is why I have made it my life’s mission to change how diplomats represent themselves at home and on the world stage. Through our many programmes, I want to help break stereotypes and misconceptions of cultural and national identity.

As I come to completing the final writings of my new book "Diplomatic Planner", I have been thinking about what it means to actually be a 'grassroot diplomat'. I still have no conclusion to this question because being a grassroot diplomat is a continuous journey and it is a journey that is completely personal to us.  I work with all diplomats who represent their countries, both officially and unofficially, to ensure they represent the heartbeat of their country. Foreign policy, security and trade needs to include people, heart, and culture. People are also complex and multifaceted and we can’t pretend that being British, for example, is a set identity that translates the same for everyone worldwide. I’m giving diplomacy some heart, light and colour. I focus on values, ethics and personality. And through my work, that is all that I can do. I can help those who want to represent-to-represent the very best of the identities, cultures and priorities of their countries. I can't tell you what that is though. It is up to you to decide what is important. What I can do is ask you probe deeper into these very identities by looking within yourself first, before looking at those around you.

Ask yourself some simple questions and you may find that the answers may be tricky or complicated. Here are a few questions you can start with:

- If a colour was to represent you for life, what would be it?
- Do the colours of your national flag represent your country?
- How can the national animal of your country bring out the personality of your entire nation and history?
- What identities do you represent personally and how can these be intertwined with your work as a diplomat?
- What perceptions and impressions are you leaving about your country when people meet you?
- When you talk about your country, who do you think about? What faces do you see in your mind?

The last question is quite important. As I continue to research for my book and read about complex bilateral relationships, I find that policymakers and diplomats talk about their country without reflecting on the people. At least, this isn’t evident in the writings I have read so far. When we talk about our countries, who comes to mind? Who is Mexico? Who is Mongolia? Who is France? Who is Belarus? If they were to take a form, how would they look like, act, interact?

I’m creating a generation of Grassroot Diplomats, all of whom have their own story, their own journey, and their own definition of what that means. Let’s breathe life into our identities, our countries, our journey, and our relationship with each other as fellow human beings who wear so many hats in life that are interdependent and international in many ways.

Being a ‘grassroot diplomat’ is not something to be answered, it is something to be discovered.

From now on, my social media feeds will focus on these points and my stories will highlight more personal anecdotes to remind us of our many hats and authenticity for life. Thank you for those who already follow me via @iamtalynrf and #hello to those I have yet to meet.

By the way, we are still filling Board Member positions for the organisation. Irrespective of your background, please come speak to us. Ask for an information pack to learn more about the legal duties of a Non-Executive Director, and put your name in the hat. All applications will be reviewed by the Nomination Committee with appointments made to the best fitting candidates after formal interviews.

For an information pack, please email: info@grassrootdiplomat.org. Further information about the Chairperson role or Non-Executive Director position, click on the links.


Serving you with light and hope.


Talyn Rahman-Figueroa
CEO, Grassroot Diplomat