Citizen diplomacy is a field of work that features regular people conducting the kinds of diplomatic exchanges that foster goodwill and connections between communities internationally. It gained steam as a movement after WWII, when world leaders acknowledged that regular people could often succeed in fostering healthy international relationships in more simple direct ways than governments, town by town, city by city.
Community Based Diplomacy is a version of citizen diplomacy that adds two elements- a) the expansion of citizen diplomacy from international focus to include local and intra-national concerns (communities within the same country, even neighboring towns etc.), and b) the extension of citizen diplomacy as a field of practice to smaller and/or rural communities that are not current participants in sister city initiatives. Community Based Diplomacy welcomes anyone who is a participant in a community, who seeks to implement a standard of conduct and discourse best understood as ‘diplomatic’ in nature (reasoned, respectful, and focused on finding common ground, adhering to the definition of the word diplomacy: “the ability to deal with people in a sensitive and tactful way”).
If the Latitude Movement is a stool with three legs- Latitude Literacy, Connection, and Diplomacy, latitude diplomacy must of necessity be community based, linking all communities east and west to the possibility of diplomatic exchanges, whether or not they are possible or even feasible. East west connections may encounter any number of barriers, however the idea of community based diplomacy is that diplomacy can be practiced on a daily basis, even at home, and that the groundwork for future ‘people to people’ diplomacy can be created today. Community based diplomacy, by starting with the idea that diplomacy must be in place locally, is also sensitive to budget and other organizational restraints. Community based diplomacy, in providing the tone of the latitude movement, is itself a diplomacy which gives participants latitude in how they can implement diplomatic initiatives. For one community, international exchanges and initiatives may be possible, for another, perhaps a potluck dinner with the invitation of residents from other towns just a short drive away.
Community based diplomacy recognizes that the working practice of diplomacy begins at home, and if people cannot conduct themselves with diplomacy in their own ‘backyards’, and in meetings with neighbors and local stakeholders, then they do not have the ingredients to practice diplomacy across a wider east-west range of towns and cities comprising different parts of the same country, and also different cultures internationally.
Latitude, as a line, creates an organizing ‘heuristic’ that enables community to build diplomacy skills, and then extend this working knowledge to neighboring latitude communities. Eventually, the latitude line is simply a way to get started, and all manner of bridge building becomes possible.
Finally, Community Based Diplomacy sees the power of individuals conducting themselves diplomatically, and the possibility of wiki-diplomacy initiatives, with the idea that the bridges built by individuals and small groups can then persist as lasting bridges sustained and furthered by others in the community. In community based diplomacy, there is not just the possibility of doing great things as individuals, but also the obligation of conducting oneself diplomatically for the sake of other community members and future generations. The idea then is that diplomacy is not just a good way to conduct ones affairs, but that there is an obligation to be diplomatic for the sake of the community and its interaction with other communities.
Listening, reflecting, and responding, handling sticky situations with tact and sensitivity, this practice can and must start at home. For some of us, it may be easier to conduct ourselves in this manner when we are on stage, and arise to a more formal manner. But the latitude movement is precisely about taking diplomacy off stage, and about connecting the kinds of people, farmers, artisans, locals of small towns, who are away from the spotlight, and finding the common ground that these people of smaller places may share. This is backroom diplomacy, but without the power broking. The power lies in the tact, and the key to that tact lies in the practice of Community Based Diplomacy each and every day.