The Second Global Irish Economic Forum begins today, with live streaming of certain sections of the event available here. But let’s take a minute to discuss what the forum is actually doing. The key word in the opening sections above is “second”. As a continuation of the earlier forum in 2009, the Irish government are producing elements of effective and strategic diaspora engagement. The need for consistent, coherent and communicated engagement is as relevant to diaspora policy as it is to any other departmental brief.

Furthermore, there also appears to be a growing awareness of the importance of transparency in the policy process. By publishing the list of attendees, programme and platforms this transparency is correctly reworking into a limited access formation. It is also key to maintain this level of limited access as good policy or decision making is usually constructed through such frameworks. So far the signs are good, but they can be better.

The main issue with this forum will be the need for tangible, identifiable and measurable outcomes. Primarily, on first viewing of the content of the forum, this should not be an issue. Economics is more often than not driven by statistics and outputs/impacts (choose whatever terminology you wish). It is the ‘bang for the buck’ conundrum, the forum therefore must be fit for purpose. This will not become apparent in the next two days but it should become apparent in the near future, which is not an unfair expectation.

Furthermore, the forum, in aims/concepts/expected outcomes is highly strategic given the needs of the homeland. The diaspora, however defined, is not so singular. Attempts by the government to merge the event with wider social or cultural “representations” (for want of a better phrase) is astute but needs more depth. Diversity in diaspora is often seen as a policy negative rather than positive. This has to change but the processes to do this are complex. It will require open and transparent communication/negotiation with the diaspora. This will help develop the foundations of long term effective diaspora engagement by making the government and diaspora stakeholders in the relationship – i.e. mutually beneficial. It is too complex, historically and otherwise, to provide any detailed commentary here but a snapshot looks like the following. Build agency through segmentation, produce coherent programmes across departments/agencies, mutliply acountability through greater agency, and produce stakeholding roles for all involved. Consequently, any notion of “harnessing” the diaspora or viewing them as a “potential” pool of engagement is naive, regressive and detrimental. Partnership and stakeholding are much more pertinent.

The final point is possibly the silent partner in the event and all other current discussions around diaspora. A prime contributor to effective diaspora engagement is the host country. In such a light, diasporas have the ability to become major diplomatic players, cultural and otherwise. This is an area which is particularly undeveloped apart from a few excellent works and will remain so unless examined further. That is an indirect challenge rising out of the event this weekend.

So, we close with a word of congratulations to all involved this weekend – It is a good start but it can be so much more. Interesting times ahead, for the Irish at home and abroad.

 

 

An excellent publication was recently launched at U.S. Secretary of State Clinton’s Global Diaspora Forum in May and by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny in September which looks at diaspora strategies. The Global Diaspora Strategies Toolkit is available at http://www.diasporamatters.com

The 4th Annual Irish Technology Leadership Group Silicon Valley Comes to Ireland event is happening at DCU, Dublin today. The event will be streamed at

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/silicon-valley-comes-to-ireland

For more information see

http://www.itlg.org/events/2011-dublin/event-overview.php

http://twitter.com/#!/ITLGorg

On Friday next, the Irish government will hold the second Global Irish Economic Forum. Following on from the initial event in 2009, the Forum is a remarkable tool and opportunity to engage and leverage the highly influential and interested ecomomic diaspora community. It also tells us a lot more.

Diaspora engagement does not happen by accident. It takes time and effort, and then some more time and effort. There will be successes and there will be failures, like most aspects of social and political enterprise it is a learning process. Furthermore, diaspora engagement is a fascinating dynamic in that it is relatively difficult to ascertain where exactly the agency for engagement resides due to a number of reasons. Whilst these debates, amongst others, are expertly examined in the new Diaspora Matters ‘Global Diaspora Strategies Toolkit,’ officially launched by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny last week, even in the most simple of assessments a key ingredient in diaspora engagement is momentum (and in a footnote this usually depends on networked individuals and/or institutions).

Arguably, in such an interpretation we gain access to the importance of this week’s event. Momentum has been building from the first event in terms of strategic diaspora engagement. The Forum has the ability to be at the forefront of a negotiated engagement between diaspora and homeland. Furthermore, it’s strategic nature is informative in terms of the relationship between home, host and diaspora. The need to be both “here” and “there” is a manageable phenomenon or negotiation. A prime example of this would be the emergence of the excellent WorldIrish website in recent weeks which serves as an indication that this negotiation is also plural.

To that end, the interesting if somewhat silent dynamic of the forum is what it represents in terms of diasporic knowledge/participation. This dynamic is also quite simply a challenge. Diaspora engagement changes over time, policy and practices must be aware and receptive to such a feature. The event at Farmleigh this week is a purposeful engagement as it helps tocontextualise changing demands of the home country and diaspora. Additionally, given the economic focus then the host country context of diaspora engagement is clearly present.

Apart from debating the theoretical or practical significance of the event, it is unquestionable that it is effective foreign policy. Measuring this will only be possible in the aftermath of the event when expected outcomes can be weighed against potential consequences, however the event marks a continuation of diaspora engagement as a cornerstone of Irish foreign policy.

Interestingly, given the ongoing debates over external voting rights (which needs to be definitionally detached from any overall label of diaspora voting rights – an issue which current discourse seems to assume rather than note) and other forms of diapora engagement, there are interesting times ahead in the complex space of the Irish diaspora. First port of call is knowledge, we must understand the dynamics of diaspora before any coherent plan can be put in place to engage. Initiatives such as the Toolkit, WorldIrish and Farmleigh are instructive in that sense, others will surely follow – they must. Momentum, much like diaspora, is never static and must never be lost.

 

For a list of attendees and programme for the upcoming Second Global Irish Economic Forum see

http://www.globalirishforum.ie/2011Forum.aspx

Posted by: Martin Russell | September 20, 2011

Diaspora Strategies Conference Report

On the 9th and 10th Sept.  the Clinton Institute held a two day international conference on Diaspora Strategies: Encouragement, Evolution and Engagement. Bringing together leading academics, practitioners and policy makers in diaspora studies the conference began an ongoing discussion on how countries engage with diasporas and vice versa. Presentations came from across the world with participants from the United States, Canada, Australia, U.K., mainland Europe and Ireland.  The conference was organised by two of our PhD students, Martin Russell and Geoffrey O’Connor with funding support from the Graduate Schoolof the College of Arts & Celtic Studies.

The Friday sessions set the theoretical and analytical boundaries of the coming days. Discussions involved the definition of diasporas and their place in the world, the role of the Irish abroad, diasporas in U.S. foreign relations, and the role of diasporas in security and conflict. The first day was brought to a close with a plenary address by leading academic Prof. Gabriel Sheffer of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. A worldwide commentator and analyst in the field, Prof. Sheffer provided a thought provoking and paradigm setting discussion on the theoretical conceptualisations on diaspora studies. With a particular focus on an innovative “four-sided” framework to diaspora engagement, developing beyond the more recognisable triangular hypothesis, Prof. Sheffer argued for the increasing importance of formal and informal networks to our understanding of how diasporas engage in mutliple ways both internally and externally with home and host countries alike.

 

Prof. Sheffer’s address set the tone for the Saturday sessions as the conference moved from an academic focus to more policy based discussions. Another plenary address, this time from Tim Finch – Director of Communications at ippr, opened up important policy debates on diaspora strategies. His well thought out and engaging discussion focused on the nature of the U.K.’s diaspora strategy. This assessment led to continued discussion on central components of effective diaspora strategy including motivations and outcomes. Additionally, other papers throughout the day bridged the gap between academia and policy with discussions on the role of social media in diaspora engagement and comparative analysis of international approaches leading the discussion.

 

The conference came to a close with an engaging and lively presentation by Kingsley Aikins, founder of Diaspora Matters. Mr. Aikins brought together years of personal experience and expertise in an articulate and passionate address about the role that diaspora strategies can play in contemporary Ireland. Again, his address spoke of the emerging importance of networks to such processes. His address was followed by engaged audience participation which helped to bring together many of the overriding debates of the previous two days. Shortly after his address, Mr. Aikins participated in a roundtable discussion with the other plenary speakers and Nicola White, co-author of the Global Diaspora Strategies Toolkit. The roundtable provided heated debate on what diaspora strategies arguably could or should look like with particular interest on questions of nation branding, communication and diaspora-homeland relations. Perhaps the greatest indication of the depth to the conference is represented by the fact that what began as an academic conference concluded with engaged discussions that will be beneficial to not only the academics in the auditorium but also to the practitioners and policymakers, quite an achievement in 48 hours.

Posted by: geoffoconnor | September 12, 2011

Diaspora in the News

Ahead of our upcoming Conference report, to give a sample for those of you unable to attended please see this Irish times report which includes an interview with plenary speaker and conference organisers. http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2011/0910/1224303850236.html

Posted by: geoffoconnor | September 5, 2011

How Do We Keep the Diaspora Interested? A Discussion

The Outpost will be operating this week in conjunction with the upcoming conference ‘Diaspora Strategies: Encouragement, Evolution and Engagement’. Consequently we will be dealing with all things Diaspora. This post will hopefully open a discussion on a contentious issue, diaspora voting rights.

This is an issue which was raised in Colum Kenny’s opinion piece ‘A mean farewell to our lost generation’ published in the Sunday Independent. In the piece Colum touches on a subject close to many Irish people’s hearts, emigration. He suggests that the government and business are doing little to help connect Irish emigrants with their home country and that often their final memories of the island are bitter (due in part to baggage charges). In the piece Colum calls on mobile phone companies to make small concessions on roaming costs and for Airlines to make an exception in relation to excess baggage charges for people who are emigrating. Colum also claims that the closure of the Irish Post in Britain is a ‘sad reminder’ of how the diaspora is being neglected.

Both suggestions seem reasonable however; the issue of roaming charges is avoidable thanks to Skype. The suggestion, on the part of Colum, that the closing of the Irish Post in Britain is somehow reflective of a lack of support for the diaspora in the UK fails to recognise the universal decline of print media and the growth of new media as the primary source of communication globally. For example the website irishabroad.com, a social media website, provides a point of contact inside and outside the diaspora.

However, all these suggestions are only supportive to Colum’s primary recommendation, that the Irish diaspora be given a vote abroad. Colum is not alone in proposing a vote for the Irish diaspora this is an issue which has received widespread support. Unfortunately, the disadvantages of such a policy outweigh the advantages. Read More…

We, here at the Outpost, are delighted to be the online partner to an upcoming conference at the Clinton Institute for American Studies, University College Dublin on Diaspora Strategies: Encouragement, Evolution and Engagement. For more details on the conference schedule and registration information please see

 

http://www.diasporastrategies.wordpress.com

 

We look forward to engaging with the conference.

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Phil Hogan has moved the order for the Presidential election, RTE has reported earlier today. There is an end in sight, the deadline for nomination of candidates is now September 28th, with the vote to occur on October 27th. The story of the election, thus far, has been one of contrasting political narratives.

Fine Gael’s candidate has proved rather uninspiring and poor positions in the polls have been a hinderance to a party who should be riding the crest of a post-election wave. This, of course, is tempered by the fact that polls are regularly mundane processes which serve a good communicative purpose but little else. The temporality of politics is the thing that polls need to survive but also fear most.The politics of power, it seems, has its pitfalls.

The weekend also saw the growing divide within Fianna Fail over the decision whether or not to run a candidate. The pursuit of celebrity candidates over the past few weeks/months has perhaps lessened appetite for a candidate as some of the possible candidates ensured maximum exposure before politely declining. The division in the camp may be exposing more deep rooted issues than those pushed by the presidential race. The politics of redemption, it seems, is difficult and will cost.

Other candidates have struggled to capture the public imagination. There has been not so much a vacuum but a general resistance to the race to this point. The changing of the order will focus the mind. The merit of the race remains with the performance of the incumbent in the Park at the minute. Tough act to follow, we will soon see who is up for the fight.

Posted by: Martin Russell | August 23, 2011

Obama Calculates The Libya Foreign Policy Equation

In foreign policy, hindsight is the decision process’ greatest threat. It can expose any liabilities in the process from decision to impact to consequence. Whilst these very rarely fit such a clear lineage, hindsight is the evaluative tool of media, historians, and public opinion. Consequently, the auxiliary role that the United States and the Obama administration played in the current situation in Libya represented both a challenge and opportunity for the President yesterday.

Initially, the sweeping actions and rhetoric of the rebel forces got even some of the world’s leaders drunk with glee, no doubt enhanced by the claims that a legitimate [rather reductionist military engagement] by NATO facilitated a swift collapse of the Gaddafi regime. It was the next logical step after wide recognition of the TNC as the legitimate force in Libya. Yesterday was supposed to be the physical representation of such a fact. Cameron spoke of the need to avoid a “complacency” and the need to move towards a more “inclusive” Libya. Sarkozy was extending invites to Paris. The ICC proclaiming the capture of Gaddafi’s sons. The politics of justice, you could say, were in full swing.

Then, Obama, made his statement. Another particularly strong foreign policy showing in the aftermath of the demise of Bin Laden – a limited American engagement, co-ordination and effective execution. The fact that the U.S. was a secondary role is another geopolitical discussion for another day. In the midst of domestic troubles for Obama, caused by the debt crisis and credit ratings debate, Libya has currency for the administration. More importantly, Libya has historical currency for the domestic audience in the U.S. after Gaddafi’s numerous marks on the nation. Obama, however, did not overplay the role of the U.S.

Good choice.

24 hours later and an appearance by a supposedly captured son of Gaddafi in Tripoli has exposed one of the plagues of effective foreign policy, credibility. No.10 is relatively quiet this morning (Clegg is leading the show), Sarkozy is probably regretting some of the invites and the ICC have been made to look naive at best and inept at worst. The ICC is now in damage limitation mode acknowledging that no official recognition of the captures came. The TNC and rebel forces will also have to re-establish a credibility; this usually comes through tangible evidence. That might be bad news for Gaddafi.

As for Obama, he calculated the solution just right. Perhaps, just perhaps, the administration realised there was a gap in the line of information somewhere. Furthermore, a limited U.S. engagement can be retained within his rhetoric by one important strategic aim, limited U.S. culpability.

Obama has done well, very well indeed. Put it in this metaphorically way – Obama has managed to stay on holiday in Martha’s Vineyard, Cameron has had to return twice from holiday in nearly as many weeks although he did return to his well earned break today.

We, here at the Outpost, are delighted to publish a guest feature by Genevieve Carpio.

Genevieve Carpio is a PhD candidate in the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. This summer she attended Summer School at the Clinton Institute where she wrote the following piece as an exercise in the seminar “New Media, Power, and Foreign Policy.”

After 24 hours of balancing luggage, judging the quality of airport food at Sky Harbor Interntional Airport in Phoenix versus Philadelphia International Airport, and sitting crammed in three different aircrafts, I saw it. It appeared out of nowhere like a vision under a thick blanket of clouds–Ireland. And, it was green. Just like I expected.

What I didn’t expect was that upon crossing the Atlantic the pilot would rudely interrupt Dr. Oz- who had only revealed 8 of his top 10 weight loss tips- to show a clip of The Simpsons. The theme music rang familiar as the colorful family appeared on the screen. In this episode, Springfield was celebrating a St. Patrick’s Day parade (http://www.hulu.com/watch/37322/the-simpsons-an-irish-lullaby). A stream of floats representing various Irish stereotypes drifted across the screen one by one– a pudgey boy riding atop a barell overflowing with spuds marked “Irish Boy Potatoes”, a sparsely filled float “Straight Catholic Priests”, and an overflowing animatronic piece depicting the “Small Irish Family”.

But something was missing. The booze. Mayor Quimby, a caricature of the Irish-Bostonian John Fitzgerald Kennedy, declared this to be a SOBER St. Patrick’s Day celebration. The havoc began as an orange clad parade of Northern Irish Protestants crossed paths with a green clad parade of Irish Catholics. Did I mention the parade was led by two leprechauns that bore a striking resemblance to the Notre Dame mascot? Without the dulling effects of alcohol, the opposing forces remembered their political differences and quickly fell into hand to hand combat. Apparently, the meaning of the “fighting Irish” goes beyond the football field (http://www.und.com/trads/nd-m-fb-name.html).

I thought to myself, “Do we really want this to be the last thing a plane full of Americans see before landing in Ireland? What would the Embassy have to say about this?” As a graduate student in Ethnic Studies, I’ve been taught to tear clips like this apart. However, I’ve been making a renewed effort to check my academic luggage at the Box Office in an effort to rejoin mainstream America. I’ve become much more likely to give to a free pass to satirical comedies such as The Simpsons, which let’s face it, can be hilarous. However, this week, I was on my way to an American Studies Institute (http://www.ucdclinton.ie/summerschool2011). Exploring Transatlantic issues. Especially as they perain to Ireland and the U.S. Oh baby. This clip was fodder for my analytical self.

Or so I thought. I was only in Ireland for a few hours when I first caught myself thinking “Where are the four leaf clovers?” Apparently, I was more receptive to the Ireland portrayed in The Simpsons than I had realized. I’ve been at the University College Dublin campus for four days and so far, there have been no shamrocks, no rainbows, and no leperchauns. Okay, so obviously I wasn’t expecting to be greeted by a small red-bearded man carrying a pot of gold, but I was expecting some kitch. And at that moment, I realized…I like it. I like having the markers of place I expect confirmed. I like deconstructing them. And, more nefariously, I like the joy that comes from embracing their superficiality.

Does this make me a bad person? Maybe. I’m not sure. What I do know is that my own expectations of Ireland complicated my reading of The Simpsons and any claims to moral superiority. I decided to dig deeper.

According to The Simpsons Archive (http://www.snpp.com/guides/irish.refs.html), an internet based clearing house of Simpsons’ information and episode transcripts, the show regularly makes Irish references. Catholic priests invariably have an Irish accent, the City of Springfield has celebrated a number of “Irish” holidays (from St. Patrick’s to the fictional Snake Wacking Day), mischevious leperchauns are on the rise, the Riverdance is as common as any other, and enough traditional Irish music has been featured to fill a CD-R. Especially, you guessed it, Ture-Lura-Lura.

However, the only episode to cause any real controversy in the UK was “The Father, Son, and Holy Guest Star” when Bart and Homer convert to Catholicism. One organized religion held back the chuckles, because, as described by the London Sunday Times “Heaven, according to The Simpsons, is an Irish-themed bar featuring Riverdance, heavy drinking and fighting. But that’s just the Catholic version. In Protestant heaven, people in polo shirts spend eternity playing croquet and badminton.” Apparently Protestant Heaven was depicted as just a bit too boring for representatives of the Protestant Church of England (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/ireland/article525210.ece). They wanted their beer too. Can’t say I blame them.

The Simpsons producers made-nice. “In the Name of the Grandfather”, Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie travel to Ireland with Grandpa who had fond memories of a pub he visited while a soldier during WWII. The episode semed like a tourism advertisement with an added dash of Simpson humor. This Ireland looked nothing like that portrayed in Springfield. Just as I had found upon arriving, there were no fields of four leaf clovers. The Emerald Isle encountered by the Simpson family was dotted with high-tech industry, a non-smoking ordinance in pubs, people too industrious to throw back a pint, and guppie leprechauns holding hands in public. Executive producer Al Jean explained in the Irish Independent, “The episode is based on the experiences of myself and a lot of the writers on ‘The Simpsons’ who have Irish ancestry and come back to visit to find it very different, much more hi-tech” (http://www.independent.ie/lifestyle/st-patricks-day/simpsons-premiere-is-a-labour-of-love-for-cartoon-producers-1675155.html). The episode, while described as average, received a warm reception and parade in Dublin where it premiered to an Irish audience before screening in theU.S. in 2009.

I wonder, can it be that The Simpsons is the distinct product of an Irish-American diaspora? Is Springfield a transnational space created by writers, producers, and an international audience all united by the love of highly-exaggerated, over-the-top, sometimes-taking-it-too-far humor? Surprisingly, The Simpsons turned out to be a closer representation of my own ideas- and likely mainstream Americans (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/4860381/The-Simpsons-to-become-longest-running-US-TV-series.html)- of Ireland  than I ever expected. One informed by the far reach of Irish-American relations.

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