Saturday, July 6, 2013

Effectiveness of State Department Business Initiatives

The US government makes an earnest effort to reach out to potential enablers of our country's strategic interests.  The Department of State has multiple organs that support this effort.  The Office of Commercial and Business Affairs has a role to play in developing business contacts overseas.  Given the broad scope of its mission, I wonder how the office measures its effectiveness.

The CBA is charged with supporting the President's National Export Initiative.  I analyzed the results of the US's export strategy in March 2013.  Whatever the CBA plans to do to push exports needs to be done at an accelerated pace.  The CBA also runs plenty of entrepreneurial programs but it's important to evaluate them on valid business metrics.  The OPIC and Ex-Im Bank have dollar-based metrics to gauge the success of their investments.  CBA needs more than just a roster of participants in its Global Entrepreneurship Program's delegations and summits.

I also wonder about the effectiveness of small outreach efforts that partner with DOS.  Business for Diplomatic Action (parent of the World Citizens Guide) closed in 2010 but played a leading role in partnering with DOS on programs such as an exchange program that benefited exactly 28 non-US entrepreneurs.  I'd like to compare this achievement to the workload of a typical big-city SBA office that helps hundreds of entrepreneurs each year.  I just don't have the data.  This is all food for thought.

I do not have a firm grasp of how well DOS integrates its commercial support mission with other federal agencies.  If DOS targets its commercial outreach efforts in support of goals outlined in the National Security Strategy for 2010, then policymakers will know those programs are at least headed in the correct direction.

BTW, those Americans who wish to engage in their own entrepreneurial diplomacy have plenty of options.  The US Center for Citizen Diplomacy has a searchable database of international affairs organizations that accept volunteers.