I had the huge opportunity to speak at Social Media Week in Bogota, Colombia on September 20, 2011. Social Media Week (@SMW) takes place twice a year -- in February and September. The founders envisioned creating a space in diverse locations around the world to bring together young, entrepreneurial talent using technology to achieve their goals. What's the key to success of @SMW? Simple: locally-based organizations or firms take the lead on implementation, designing events with relevance and impact for their own communities. Over the years, @SMW local organizers have designed interactive discussions, events, and trainings in New York, Los Angeles, Beirut, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Bogota, and Berlin, among many other cities.
@SMW provides a fantastic opportunity to connect with both established and entrepreneurial talent across countries. This is so critical for the State Department as we seek to build our network of experts already leveraging technology, recognizing tremendous efforts underway around issues critical to our foreign policy and development goals, including: civic engagement, citizen security, financial inclusion, and expanding learning and exchange opportunities. @SMW also offers a venue to seek input from experts regarding how the State Department -- not just headquarters, but our embassies and consulates abroad -- have (or have not) incorporated technology into our communications, policies, and programming.
During @SMW Bogota 2011, hundreds of Colombians from across sectors -- tech industry, non-profits, university students and government representatives -- filled venues to capacity. U.S. Embassy Bogota brought Peter Shankman, founder of Help a Reporter Out, to @SMW Bogota to discuss his experience incorporating social media into marketing campaigns. I spoke to an audience of 150 Colombians at Javeriana University about how the State Department is working to incorporate technology into our foreign policy and development goals under the banner of 21st Century Statecraft. Across the board, audiences -- both physical and virtual -- were super engaged with fantastic questions and comments.
For me, traveling to Colombia is like traveling to my second home. I had the opportunity to serve at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia from 2005 to 2008, during which time I learned so much and made incredible friends. My son -- now four years old -- was born there. Connecting with participants @SMW Bogota was a great reminder of the impressive, deep and innovative talent that you find across Colombian society. (It also reminded me that I've got to practice my Spanish!)
The youthful Colombian participants of @SMW Bogota are the present and future of their country -- driving their nation's economic engine and stepping into leadership roles. Secretary Clinton's 21st Century Statecraft policy initiative is about taking traditional government-to-government diplomacy and, through technology, creating direct person-to-person engagement. @SMW Bogota provided an ideal venue to connect on a personal level with young, innovative Colombians and expose them to today's State Department: one focused on direct engagement with foreign publics around the world.