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Institute in Paris

Knowledge Diplomacy: Research, Innovation and Higher Education Institutions in International Relations

The Knowledge Diplomacy project is developing multifaceted work on the impact of scholarly research, practice, innovation and international higher education institutions on inter-state cooperation, and vice-versa.

What is Knowledge Diplomacy?

The nature of modern international relations has undergone a significant change with the emergence of new actors and processes that are shaping diplomatic practices and international affairs. In this setting, international higher education has had a long history of building transnational cooperation. However, the actors engaged in international higher education and the functions they play in the present diplomatic processes are only beginning to receive scholarly attention. Knowledge Diplomacy, although a developing and often disputed term, is the best concept for comprehending the diverse functions that knowledge, research, innovation, and higher education institutions play in international relations and how international relations shape these important functions.

The Knowledge Diplomacy Project 

The Knowledge Diplomacy project is leading a study analysing the role of international higher education institutions, research, innovation and knowledge exchange in building and strengthening transnational cooperation. The project includes research publications, events and network development to bring together leading practitioners in diplomacy and academics from a variety of disciplines. The overall aim is to promote and understand the significance of knowledge diplomacy in both academic and policy discussions that contribute to tackling pressing global issues.

Dr Tim Gore OBE, Knowledge Diplomacy Project Lead

Led by the University of London Institute in Paris' CEO, Tim Gore, the Knowledge Diplomacy project is developing multifaceted work on the impact of scholarly research, innovation and international higher education institutions on inter-state cooperation, and vice-versa. A collaborative venture, the initiative brings together various University of London federation members, the Centre for Online and Distance Education, the British Council, Goethe Institut, and ICR Research.

The project builds on the work of the University of London in facilitating effective knowledge exchange and provides an accessible and participatory environment for academics, policymakers, practitioners and students where they are able to join the exciting conversation on the concept of Knowledge Diplomacy. The project establishes partnerships to investigate the linkages between knowledge, public understanding, and the execution of global policies. It highlights the importance of collaboration across borders and communities of practice and academic disciplines. The project's objectives include producing a range of academic and non-academic outputs that examine Knowledge Diplomacy and its ability to navigate the realm of policy, expertise, and impactful research.

The idea for the Knowledge Diplomacy project originated in June 2019 at the British Council’s Going Global conference in Berlin. Since then, the project went through several transitions and phases to facilitate unique access and collaboration among practitioners of diplomacy and academics across disciplines through a variety of outputs, including research, events, workshops and many more. The Knowledge Diplomacy project team has successfully conducted two annual seminar series, which explored the roles of universities in addressing pandemics, climate change, city diplomacy, cultural relations, knowledge exchange, and crises. They are currently finalising a book publication with Manchester University Press titled Knowledge Diplomacy: Developments and Future Trends. In July 2023, the first annual Knowledge Diplomacy conference “Facilitating Access, Participation and Exchange of Knowledge in a Fragmented World” took place in Paris. In July 2024, the second annual conference “Research into Practice – Practice into Research” will take place in London. The aim of the conference is to create a space that facilitates a dialogue between academics, policymakers, practitioners, and innovators, fostering a dynamic exchange of ideas and experiences of the practical application of knowledge diplomacy. 

Timeline of Events

2019

Centre for Distance Education delivers a presentation on Knowledge Diplomacy at the British Council’s Going Global conference in Berlin. During the same year, ICR Research joins the project.

2020

The University of London Institute in Paris joins the project, establishes new funding streams and sets up a steering group.

2021

Second paper presented at the British Council’s Going Global conference. Start of Phase 1 of the Knowledge Diplomacy project. 

2022

Phase 2 of the project started and explored the roles of cities in relation to Knowledge Diplomacy. Four webinars and two workshops were implemented. The project published a call for chapters for a planned book publication.

2023

Phase 3 of the project began with new members in the Steering Group. The first annual Knowledge Diplomacy conference addressing the theme of ‘Facilitating Access, Participation and Exchange of Knowledge in a Fragmented World’ took place in Paris. Work on the Knowledge Diplomacy Network and book publication started. 

2024

Phase 4 of the project focuses on research- and practice-based approaches to Knowledge Diplomacy and how they can inform each other.

Core Group Members

Other governance members

Research

Key research questions:

  • How can University of London and its partner institutions explore and contribute to the field of Knowledge Diplomacy?
  • How can we comprehend the historical, current, and future contexts in which higher education institutions and academic, policymaker, and practitioner knowledge exchange operate?
  • What are the effects of research, knowledge exchange, and higher education institutions on global challenges and transnational cooperation?

Overall, the main objectives of the Project’s research outputs are:

  • To engage in knowledge exchange among academic and non-academic stakeholders
  • Facilitate internal learning within the University and dissemination of findings among the wider audiences interested in addressing global issues
  • Understand the past, present, and future contexts that higher education institutions and processes seeking to address global challenges operate in
  • Share empirical and innovative research addressing the dynamics between higher education institutions and relations between states and vice versa
  • Shed light on the impact of research and higher education institutions on global challenges and cooperation between states to stakeholders in diplomacy.
Knowledge Diplomacy and global education are at this kind of “sliding doors” moment right now as we emerge from COVID-19, as we have a sense of a driverless world, as we wonder which models are going to prove the best actually in delivering security, justice, and opportunity for people.
Tom Fletcher CMG - former UK Ambassador and Foreign Policy Adviser, Author, and Principal of Hertford College (Oxford)
Former Ambassador Tom Fletcher during an interview with ULIP

Events

The Knowledge Diplomacy project has presented a series of free online public events designed to initiate discussions on the potential of the Knowledge Diplomacy concept to address global challenges. 

In 2021 and 2022, the series explored the challenges that COVID-19 and climate change have exposed in the information economy and ecology, and analysed the role of cities as sites of knowledge creation and dissemination, exports and imports of culture, and international efforts between stakeholders in climate change diplomacy and higher education’s response to crisis situations. The online seminar series has been successful in bringing the leading stakeholders together. The seminar series has directly involved academics and practitioners from the UK, France, Germany and beyond. You can access our YouTube playlist to view event recordings.

In 2023, the Knowledge Diplomacy project facilitated an in-person conference in Paris exploring the role of higher education, research, and knowledge exchange in diplomatic processes. The conference was co-organised by the University of London Institute in Paris, the Institute of Languages, Cultures and Societies at the School of Advanced Study, the Centre for Online and Distance Education, and ICR Research. The conference was supported by the University of London Knowledge Exchange Fund enabled by UKRI Research England.

Reports

Knowledge Diplomacy Seminar – Cities and CulturePDF169.34 KB
Knowledge Diplomacy Seminar – Cities as Sites of Knowledge Creation and ExchangePDF160.32 KB
Knowledge Diplomacy Seminar – Knowledge Diplomacy and CrisisPDF206.38 KB
Knowledge Diplomacy Seminar – Cities as Actors for Global Climate ChangePDF168.51 KB

Partners and Contributors

The Project has built firm partnerships with external collaborators that represent cultural diplomacy entities, specifically the British Council and Goethe Institut. The expertise, networks and knowledge provided by these collaborators aided the project tremendously in positioning itself as a one-of-a-kind collaboration among professionals working in higher academic institutions, the cultural sector, non-governmental sector, diplomacy and international organisations across Europe. 

The public engagement events involved high level representatives from the UCL Medical School, SOAS, British Council France, School of Advanced Study, and University of London; and panellists represented notable institutions including the UK Health Security Agency, Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, Greater London Authority, UK Science Museum Group, Council of Paris, French Embassy in the UK, Council of Europe, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, International Science Council, King’s College London, Thomas Jefferson University, London School of Economics and Political Science, University of California – Berkley, Floating University Berlin and other institutions.

Sponsors

The Knowledge Diplomacy project is supported by the Convocation Trust, University of London Knowledge Exchange Fund (enabled by UKRI Research England), British Council in France.

Contact

For any enquiries about the project, potential partnerships and collaboration, please contact:

Knowledge Diplomacy Project Team
University of London Institute in Paris
knowledgediplomacy@london.ac.uk

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