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Mary Johnson Practices Cultural Diplomacy in Brussels

Mary Johnson is a current Master in Public Diplomacy student at the Maxwell School. She participated in the Public Diplomacy Internships in Brussels Program.

This past summer, I interned in Brussels, Belgium with More Europe – external cultural relations and the Cultural Diplomacy Platform. These organizations are funded by the European Commission and supported by a consortium of European cultural institutions, namely the British Council, Institute Francais, The Center for Fine Arts (BOZAR) in Brussels, the European Cultural Foundation, European National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC) and the Goethe Institut – which housed the offices of the aforementioned organizations.

Most of my responsibilities early on involved social media management. I surveyed what platforms the organization had, how they were being used and created strategies and content to promote upcoming events, including the signature workshop of the Platform – the Global Cultural Leadership Programme (GCLP). Although I didn’t have the chance to travel with my team to actively participate in GCLP 2017 in Athens, Greece, I learned a lot about international cultural engagement and the depth of cultural workers concerning cultural diplomacy. All of the participants had different expertise, yet they were all working to improve the arts and culture within and outside of their home countries. It was also a chance for me to see program implementation that aligned with the goals outlined in the new EU strategy towards external cultural relations.

Later on in my experience, I researched issues in Turkey and met with policy experts at DG NEAR and DG EAC in preparation for More Europe’s cultural relations workshop later this year regarding EU-Turkey cultural relations. It was great learning more about the EU and different delegations while also learning about Turkey and its relationship with the EU. In addition to workshop planning, I also wrote a position advocacy paper on the importance of cultural diplomacy for both the EU and the US, highlighting strengths and areas of opportunity for both actors going forward.

Mary Johnson at More Europe.

Working with these organizations gave me hands-on experience in the cultural sector which allowed me to engage in cultural diplomacy – something I am extremely passionate about. I saw everything from arts funding initiatives to forming new partnerships and the role of governments in facilitating cultural relations endeavors. Prior to this, I knew I wanted to pursue cultural diplomacy long-term, but I wasn’t sure what that would flesh out as for a career. I left Brussels with a clear understanding of how the EU engages in cultural diplomacy and the variety of paths regarding cultural relations I can pursue.

Public Diplomacy Internships in Brussels

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