About the Authors: Tiffany Smith Licciardi and Linda G. Green serve in the Office of eDiplomacy in the Bureau of Information Resource Management.
The work of the Department of State is global and requires coordination of effort from Washington, our diplomatic offices abroad, our colleagues in the foreign affairs community and partners around the world. One of the programs that has changed the way we do business in the past few years is Diplopedia, the Department of State's online collaborative encyclopedia of foreign affairs information. Like the Internet's Wikipedia, Diplopedia is a wiki. It aims to draw on contributions from all staff with knowledge and experience to share that will help Department employees do their work more effectively and efficiently.
From a quiet start in late 2006 with about a dozen articles, Diplopedia has taken off in content and participation. Now, in an average week, Department employees create 30 new contributor accounts, add 50 or more pages and access Diplopedia between 30,000 and 40,000 times. In 2009, Diplopedia passed one milestone -- more than 2,000 registered contributors. In early 2010, it passed an even bigger one -- more than 10,000 articles. The growing breadth and depth of Diplopedia make it an increasingly valuable resource.
What kind of information does Diplopedia contain? Some of it concerns the nuts-and-bolts of life in a big organization. For example, Diplopedia contains a comprehensive collection of information for desk officers, the Foreign Service officers who act as the in-house experts and go-to officials on a particularly country. Desk officers rotate out of their positions every two years and often have little lead time to learn the scope of their new job. Diplopedia provides a desk officer manual, advising them on everything from what to make of Department jargon, how to move a paper for decision, or how to navigate a new Ambassador through the complexities of Senate confirmation and assignment to his or her mission.
Diplopedia covers substance as well as tradecraft. For example, some 40 briefing portals help Department employees find and contribute information on specific programs, economic issues, and international politics. What put Diplopedia over the 10,000 article mark last month was a decision to use it as a working space for our foreign policy experts to share and collate information that underpins the Department's efforts to address a major global issue which encompasses economic, political, human rights and population concerns.
Diplopedia continues to grow because Department employees are ready both to share knowledge and expertise and to innovate in the way they tackle challenges. The Office of eDiplomacy and other offices in State help provide the technological tools -- our diplomats and analysts do the rest to advance American diplomacy.