March 26, 2019
To mark the US launch of Soft Power Superpowers and Powers of Attraction, the British Council and NYU Washington, DC co-hosted a panel discussion, question and answer session, and networking reception. This event brought together key stakeholders in the soft power field including think tanks, policymakers, academics, and more. The panel included Maria Belovas, Head of Press & Public Diplomacy/Spokesperson, Delegation of the European Union to the United States, Shanthi Kalathil, Senior Director, International Forum for Democratic Studies, Alistair MacDonald, Author, Soft Powers Superpowers Report, British Council Senior Policy Analyst, and Shawn Powers, Acting Chief Strategy Officer, United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM).
This was the second event in the British Council US Thought Leadership series. Created in response to radical changes in the political, economic and social landscape, the series highlights research and insights from the British Council’s global network and offers a forum for the development of collaborative approaches to address significant global challenges.
Ms. Belovas is the Spokesperson and Head of Press and Public Diplomacy at the Delegation of the European Union to the U.S. in Washington since August 2018. Her team is covering the entire spectrum of press, strategic communications, cultural diplomacy, people-to-people exchanges, and education in close coordination with the EU member states and local partners. Before joining the EU external action service she spent 10 years in the diplomatic service of the Republic of Estonia, most recently as Director General for Communications, including during Estonia's very first Presidency of the Council of the EU. Her department was responsible for media relations, public diplomacy, strategic communications and nation branding. She has also served in Estonian embassies in Portugal and the U.S. Ms. Belovas has a degree in journalism and public relations from University of Tartu.
Shanthi Kalathil is senior director of the International Forum for Democratic Studies at the National Endowment for Democracy. Her work focuses primarily on authoritarian challenges to democracy in the information age. Previously in her career, she served as a senior democracy fellow at the US Agency for International Development, an associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a non-resident associate with the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University, and as a consultant for the World Bank, the Aspen Institute, and other international affairs organizations. Kalathil has authored or edited numerous policy and scholarly publications, including Diplomacy, Development and Security in the Information Age (Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, 2013), Developing Independent Media as an Institution of Accountable Governance (The World Bank, 2008), and (with Taylor C. Boas) Open Networks, Closed Regimes: The Impact of the Internet on Authoritarian Rule(Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2003).
Alistair MacDonald is the British Council’s Senior Policy Analyst focussing on soft power. Alistair has written extensively about soft power. His most recent publications are Soft Power Superpowers and the Powers of Attraction. Soft Power Superpowers looks at the networks of international cultural relations institutions like the British Council and the Confucius Institute, and looks at the varying approaches to soft power of eight leading soft powers. Powers of Attraction presents analysis of the findings from a survey that asked young people around the G20 for their views on the attractiveness and trustworthiness of the G20 countries.
Alistair has been with the British Council for 7 years, leading on foreign policy and external relations with the UK Government and Parliament. Prior to his work with the Council he worked in a range of roles in the UK Government and with other public bodies, focussing on international affairs and heritage, the arts, broadcasting, housing and planning policies.
Shawn Powers serves as the Acting Chief Strategy Officer at the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM) where he focuses on strategic planning, innovation, research and evaluation, and policy coordination for USAGM, as well as positioning the agency within the broader U.S. government and with key stakeholders. He has a Ph.D. from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California (USC) and more than a decade of experience working at the nexus of public diplomacy, technology, and national security.
Previously Powers served as Executive Director of the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, a body authorized by Congress to oversee and promote U.S. Government activities that intend to understand, inform, and influence foreign publics. From 2016-2018 he led the Commission’s efforts to understand and utilize artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities in the strategic communication space and helped forge a research and learning agenda and culture among public diplomacy practitioners.
As an academic, Powers researched the geopolitics of information and technology and published the award-winning The Real Cyber War: A Political Economy of Internet Freedom (The University of Illinois Press, 2015). He has over 40 publications in academic and mainstream outlets, including The Washington Post, Guardian, and Huffington Post.
Powers received B.A.’s in International Affairs and Communication from the University of Georgia before earning his M.A. and Ph.D. from USC. He has been invited to speak at the Al Jazeera Forum, Austrian Diplomatic Academy, British Broadcasting Corporation, Council on Foreign Relations, SXSW, United Nations, World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, and over 30 universities.