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2015 Awards Recognize Public Diplomacy in China, Poland, Afghanistan, West Africa

Molly Westrake at burial site

Molly Westrake photographs a Congressional visit to a safe Ebola burial site in Liberia. (Courtesy, Molly Westrake)

10 May 2015. The 2015 winners of the 18th annual PDAA awards for innovative and effective PD strategies clearly demonstrated creativity, courage and tenacity in addressing critical issues ranging from Ebola in Africa and women’s rights issues in Afghanistan to electronic messaging in China and trade agreements in Europe.

PDAA, which is a volunteer, nonprofit organization of current and former State Department, broadcast, academic and private sector public diplomacy professionals, honored the eight awardees at their annual event held May 3 in Washington D.C. Nominations came in from State Department posts in every region of the world and from Washington, and all were remarkable for the demonstrated commitment and the strategic thinking of the nominees to advancing U.S. policy.

The awardees this year are: Said, who since 2004 has managed the first American Corner in Afghanistan. Despite physical attacks and threats on his life and his family, Said had expanded women’s participation from almost non-existent to over 28,000 in 2014 through his untiring effort to create a culture where women are integrated and can advance in all part of Afghan society. His roundtables lead by female subject matter experts covered issues ranging from education, civil society, and computer skills to stopping violence against women, countering violent extremism and promoting democratic values. Jean Manes, Principal Deputy Coordinator in the Bureau of International Information Programs, in accepting the award, said “He is the heart of what we do around the world.”

Emily Green at a workshop

Emily Green, center, at a workshop she organized for Guinean health communicators (Kimberly Phelan-Royston)

Kimberly Phelan-Royston and Emily Green from U.S. Embassy Conakry, Sally Hodgson and Molly Westrate from U.S. Embassy Monrovia, and Hollyn Green from U.S. Embassy Freetown were hailed for their courage, creativity and effectiveness in developing and implementing public health messaging campaigns in affected countries to educate populations on how Ebola is spread, to promote good hygiene practices and to combat the stigmatization around the disease and discrimination against those who were infected. Their efforts helped mitigate the transmission of Ebola. Their work included utilizing local radio stations, creating survivor videos and comic books, sending out public health voicemails, and partnering with both local religious leaders and traditional healers to help inform both rural and urban populations.

Jennifer Galt on Web chat

Jennifer Galt conducting Web chat over social media (U.S. Consulate General Guangzhou)

Consul General Jennifer Zimdahl Galt in Guangzhou, China was recognized for her exceptional work in overcoming the Chinese government’s iron clad media restrictions and launching the U.S. government’s presence on such major Chinese social media websites such as Weibo, WeChat and Youku (“YouTube”), primarily through her hashtag #CG Galt#. Her frequent posts, written in fluent Chinese, attracted as many as 400,000 views and reposts and reached an estimated 1.2 million Chinese followers. FSO Thao Anh Tran, who nominated Galt and accepted the award on her behalf, noted that Galt’s posts “carved out a space for Chinese to debate controversial issues in an environment of otherwise pervasive censorship … and established a foundation for effective outreach for future generations of public professional and government officials operating in China.”

Embassy Warsaw Trade Officer Angela Palazzolo

U.S. Embassy Warsaw Trade Officer Angela Palazzolo, right, receiving award from PDAA president Amb. Greta Morris (A. Kotok)

Misinformation about what trade agreements can or cannot do is widespread, whether in the United States or abroad. In response, Trade Officer Angela Palazzolo so effectively spearheaded the development and implementation of Mission Poland’s Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) public outreach strategy that it was cited as a best practice by the Department and incorporated into a pilot program for three other European posts. Palazzolo, in Washington to accept the award, said she was “working against a lot of anti-globalization forces.” To counter those forces, she not only held off-the-record press briefings, conducted roundtables and gave speeches, but also created a T-TIP advocacy group, “Friends of T-TIP,” consisting of Polish contacts that ran coordinated social media campaigns and widely distributed information and countered negative messaging during the negotiations. She also engaged other foreign embassies to help with the outreach efforts. As one Deputy U.S. Trade Representative said: “If every post had a trade officer like Angela, we’d have T-TIP promotion taken care of across the European Union.”

PDAA’s mission is to foster understanding, recognition of and support for public diplomacy through educational and social activities.

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