On the Recognition of the State Department’s Inaugural Data for Diplomacy Award Winners
The Enterprise Data Council (EDC) commends the five winners and 15 honorable mentions of the Department’s Inaugural Data for Diplomacy Awards. These employees and the superior quality of their data analytic projects best demonstrate the Department’s progress toward becoming a data-centric organization.
The awards program was created to support and accelerate the Department’s first-ever Enterprise Data Strategy which positions data as a critical instrument of diplomacy. A pillar of Secretary Antony Blinken’s Modernization Agenda, the Department will better leverage data and analytics to help inform foreign policy and management decisions.
In its first year, judges reviewed an impressive number of submissions from more than 40 Department bureaus and posts across the globe. Awards were bestowed on individuals and teams who best innovatively used data as a strategic asset to support foreign policy or national security challenges. The awards were divided into four categories: post, individual, group, and data ambassador.
Data for Diplomacy Award Winners:
Post Award: This award is given to the top post or mission that has used innovative data solutions to advance either policy or operational objectives in line with their Integrated Country Strategy. This year, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) Panama takes top place for the Post Award, for leading a major strategic planning and impact initiative for Embassy Panama. The INL team demonstrated exceptional leadership by improving data availability and data quality, as well as fostering a robust data culture and enabling data-informed decision making. Their work aligning metrics to monitor progress against INL Panama’s Integrated Country Strategy objectives serves as a field-tested model of how to overcome the challenge of using data to drive mission strategy.
Individual Award: This award honors the top individual nominee who has made major strides in leveraging data as a strategic asset in support of the Department’s mission. This year, the category resulted in a tie, in no particular order:
Dr. Molini Patel of the Bureau of Medical Services (MED) received this award in recognition of her expertise and leadership in managing data related to COVID-19, ZephAir, and Anomalous Health Incidents (AHI) to inform policy decisions within the Department of State and the interagency. The data management programs created by Dr. Patel greatly assisted the Department’s COVID-19 response by making vaccination distribution plans and medical evacuations and planning more predictive and efficient. Dr. Patel has completely revolutionized MED’s ability to gather data and mold it into products that are easily understood and used by policy makers both within the Bureau and the Department at large.
Christopher Petersen of Embassy Prague’s Political and Economic Affairs section won for developing a database to analyze flight manifests and track tens of thousands of refugees’ movements during his assignment to the Ramstein Interagency Task Force (RIAT) in support of Operation Allies Refuge. Chris’s innovative work to transform a manual process into a secure, web-based, mobile-friendly solution saved hundreds of person-hours for Embassy Berlin, the Department, and Department of Defense partners by automating the team’s existing process and helping the RIAT to identify and prioritize vulnerable refugee cases.
Group Award: This award is given to the group nominee that best leverages data as a strategic asset in support of the Department’s mission. This year’s winners are Simone Bak, Frederick Check, Bridget Connelly, Sarah Detzner, Georges Fadel, John Stevenson, Annalise Stone, Robert Strauss, and Katie Troutman of the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs’ (PM) Strategic Impact Assessment Framework (SIAF) team. SIAF’s work on data management and visualization has saved the Bureau countless staff hours and is a valuable enabler of data-informed decision-making. SIAF also developed a new diagnostic tool, the Security Cooperation Evaluation Framework (SCEF) index, PM’s first attempt to rigorously measure the effectiveness of PM’s considerable programs and activities. Practitioners assumed for years that it was not possible to quantitatively measure the political outcomes of U.S. security cooperation and assistance, yet the SCEF provides an academically rigorous method for doing just that. Given the tremendous scale of U.S. security cooperation and assistance and its commensurate importance as a tool of U.S. foreign policy, the SCEF holds the potential to significantly shape policymakers’ approach to many of our allies and partners.
Data Ambassador Award: This award is given to a team or individual that most significantly contributes to cultivating a data culture at the Department through communications, training, or collaborative activities that improve the Department’s ability to leverage its data as a strategic asset. Amanda Beck of Embassy Amman of the economics section, Will Marsh of Embassy Kampala of the management section, and Tina Wong of The Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs’ Office of Policy and Regional Affairs won as a team for their work to design, implement, analyze, and produce the first comprehensive Foreign Service assignments data-driven survey and policy report. The report is now a historic and seminal piece for institutional reforms and proof that data and barrier analyses can be done at zero or low cost, fulfill the highest data privacy and ethical standards, and leverages the analytical talents of our employees to drive both our data culture and advance the Biden Administration’s priority on equity and transparency.
The EDC will sponsor the Data for Diplomacy Awards each spring to encourage and reward the use of data-informed diplomacy.