Digital Diplomacy

We are experiencing a structural change in the function of embassies due to the changing role of the nation state in our globalized and increasingly digital and networked world.

Lectures & Workshops Digital Diplomacy @ The Hague Digital Diplomacy Camp 2018 Un-Conference, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, The Hague, 2 February 2018

The Hague
Digital Diplomacy Camp 2018

Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Halbe Zijstra kicks off The Hague Digital #Diplocamp, with guests from 25 countries:

“When governments and networks join forces towards a common goal, wonderful things can happen.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands wants to bring together diplomats, businesses, NGO’s, journalists, tech experts and scientists to discuss the challenges, share practical tools and design solutions around digital diplomacy.

Partners of The Hague Digital Diplomacy Camp 2018 Un-Conference are:
USC Center on Public Diplomacy, Hybrid Space Lab, Clingendael Institute Netherlands Institute of International Relations,  Leiden University Humanity X, University of Oxford #DigDiploROx, DiploHack, German Federal Foreign Office Global Diplomacy Lab, RNW Media

Embassy Lab, 2 February 2018, The Hague Digital Diplomacy Un-Conference 2018, @ Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Hague, The Netherlands



The impact of digitalisation is clearly both positive and negative. We can use digital technology to connect people and bring them closer together, but the same technology can also be used to create division. More and more data can be gathered online, but does the data provide us with actual insight? Every day the latest news from around the world is presented to us on a plate via online platforms, but these platforms are also a platform for deliberate fake news. The result is a diffuse digital world. What are the implications of this? How can you make the most of opportunities, protect yourself against threats and avoid ‘noise’? And what challenges and opportunities can diplomats, businesses, journalists and NGOs expect in the future?



The combination of physical and media space, of local place and digital networks, is coined Hybrid Space. Space today is transformed by technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) or Mixed Reality, becoming increasingly hybrid. With the Internet of Things (IoT) Hybrid Space is becoming ubiquitous. Artificial Intelligence and Big Data have the ambition and potential to algorithmically manage these Hybrid Spaces.


After introducing Hybrid Space as the combination of physical and digital space—in all formats: personal, group, bi-/multilateral, and networked—the discussion took a more conceptual approach, addressing the “?”, the transformation of space.

The group discussion focused on the notion of “privacy” as an expression of a certain historic time and cultural setting. Addressing the present need to reset the discourse on privacy, “anonymity” was suggested as an alternative model to the notion of ”privacy.” The implications of such a conceptual turn were briefly examined.

The next issue we focused on was how to develop information spaces as spaces to process (big) data. This includes the problem of how to visualize complex dynamic information, so that we can discover patterns and handle its complexity. It was suggested that creative professionals work as assistants in such ministerial “data rooms” as they do have expertise in visualizing and dealing with complex dynamic information.

The discussion then addressed the question if such information spaces (“data rooms,” “war rooms,” “situation rooms”) should be hybrid, so that people involved in the processing the information can interact with each other digitally and physically at the same time.

The idea of using avatars in such discussion processes, so that attention is paid only to the message, rather than who is behind it, was controversially debated.

The discussion then circled around examples of hybrid space applications in different professional fields and on the patterns of use of hybrid space in different (age) groups.



We are experiencing a structural change in the function of embassies – within the European unification process, as well as more generally due to the changing role of the nation state in our globalized and increasingly digital and networked world.

The Embassy of the Netherlands in Berlin created a pop-up think tank for research and exchange, for experimenting with new models, and for presenting and communicating innovative projects and ideas: Embassy Lab, a laboratory and possible prototype for the Dutch Embassies worldwide.


The workshop researches how to integrate Hybrid Space developments, with technologies such as AR, VR, IoT or AI, into meaningful applications for diplomats, international organisations and NGOs. It aims to create a group to further pursuit these issues with investigative research and ideation.


The group discussion first focused on the how embassies could transform in the future, combining digital and offline interactions. It also addressed the opening up of embassies to involve citizens, and how this should reflect in the physical space and structure—and transparency—of embassies.

The potential of the Embassy Lab model was highlighted: An embassy is a smaller entity than a foreign affairs ministry, but it does reflect its departmental organizational structure. As a smaller unit, an embassy can more easily be flexible, creative, and agile. An embassy can therefore try out new models of crossover collaboration and can function as a creative testing ground for a ministry of foreign affairs.

A series of Embassy Lab applications were considered, such as in conflict prevention as well as the possibility of introducing the Embassy Lab model in the EU and in international organizations and inter-state relationships (multilateral diplomacy), in order to enhance flexibility in operations.

The Embassy Lab series at the Dutch Embassy in Berlin addressed a very broad range of fields and issues, such as health, mobility, city co-curation, future diplomacy, sharing economy, etc. But the common denominator of all these Embassy Lab events were the challenges caused by digitalization.

Interestingly enough, the Embassy Lab series method for fostering digital innovation was direct face-to-face physical interaction with creative labs and design thinking tools. This paradox of processing digital innovation with methods based on physical interaction was one of the subjects we discussed.

Connected to this was the issue of how to integrate experimental formats in traditional large and inert organizations. We discussed the possibilities of a top-down approach and the important role of leadership in this context, as it is possible to effect change quickly and courageously if you have support from the organization’s leadership. Political leaders should therefore promote creativity and experimentation, while accepting that there is a higher level of risk attached.

Formats and spaces should be created where senior executives can communicate with and learn from junior staff, as well as from creative, disruptive, and/or introverted employees.

Creativity is becoming increasingly important for dealing with unprecedented developments in our accelerated and complex world. Large inert organizations therefore need new spaces and formats where they can experiment in order to develop a multiplicity, a pool of ideas. We discussed how to create innovation spaces (labs) to allow for continuous experimentation and how to infuse start-up culture (“rainforest”) into traditional organizations (“plantations”).

Last but not least, we discussed how to create commitment and sustain this, so that the outcome of the innovation labs can have an influence toward changing policy.

AR/VR x IoT + AI + ?
Hybrid Space

Lecture & Workshop @ The Hague Digital Diplomacy Camp 2018 Un-Conference, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, The Hague, 9.30-18.00, 2 February 2018


For governments and diplomats, as well as the partners they are looking to work with, this poses a challenge. We find ourselves at a turning point that calls for new alliances between actors capable not only of responding to these changes, but capable of anticipating and embracing them. Diego Piacentini, formerly senior vice president at Amazon and now head of the Italian government’s digital technology office, recognises this sentiment: ‘We can never permit ourselves the luxury of feeling that we have arrived: tomorrow we will always do better than today.’

Fast-paced advances in technology are creating diffuse and volatile conditions in which international actors operate. Disruptive innovations such as machine learning and big data analytics are changing governments, NGOs, the media, businesses, and in some cases entire industries. New and unexpected players entering the field are putting pressure on the traditional division of roles between politics, business, journalism and civil society. And this is just the beginning: developments like artificial intelligence and blockchain technology are only just starting to have an impact.

To explore these issues, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands is organising The Hague Digital Diplomacy Camp: Influence in a diffuse digital world on 2 February 2018. At this unconference, we are inviting participants to discuss consequences of digitalization for international affairs, to share practical tools and design solutions for the future.



Ryan Heath, Senior EU Correspondent at POLITICO


10.00-10.30    Plenary opening and keynote talks
10.30-11.00    Opening of the wall: participants submit sessions
11.00-11.45     First round of sessions
12.00-12.45    Second round of sessions
12.45-14.00    Walking lunch with inspiring keynote talks
14.00-14.45    Third round of sessions
15.00-15.45    Fourth round of sessions
16.00-16.45    Plenary closing statement


Who’s got the floor? Working with digital influencers to expand civic space.
Luke Gilder, Engagement Strategist at RNW Media

Embassy Lab: an experiment with future functions of embassies in the current age of EUization, globalization and digitalization.
Prof. Elizabeth Sikiaridi and Prof. Frans Vogelaar, Hybrid Space Lab

Augmented Reality for Diplomacy.
Galit Ariel, CEO of Wondarlands and author of ‘Augmented Alice – The Future of Identity, Experience and Reality’

How to leverage the value of data while preventing harm to vulnerable people.
Thomas Baar, HumanityX

Diplohack: are hackathons viable tools for diplomats?
Jon Pelling (Swedish MFA) and Weijer Losecaat Vermeer (Dutch MFA), co-founders of Diplohack

“What is Really Going on Out There?” What a Digital Index of Global Influence (DiGi) could contribute to mapping patterns of influence in the digital world.
Stuart MacDonald (SYM Consulting) and Prof. Jan Melissen (Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’).

Digital Public Diplomacy: From Tactics to Strategy
By Prof. Corneliu Bjola, Jennifer Cassidy and Ilan Manor, University of Oxford.

Hacking SDG 16: Using Digital Diplomacy to Support Accountability and the Rule of Law.
By Blair Glencorse, Janos Koka and Diego Osorio (Global Diplomacy Lab’s Winning #DiploCamp submission).

The Hague Humanity Hub

Closing the conference you will be able to see digital diplomacy in action, in a short pitch and discussion session at and with members of the Hague Humanity Hub, followed by closing drinks. This innovation space is host to, among others, UN-OCHA’s Center for Humanitarian DataLeiden University’s HumanityX programme, the Hague Institute for Innovation in LawDutch Coalition for Humanitarian Innovation and the World Resources Institute.

Workshops, Lectures & Symposia Embassy Lab @ Kingdom of The Netherlands Embassy, Berlin, Germany & Kingdom of The Netherlands Ministery of Foreign Affairs, The Hague, The Netherlands, 2014~2021

Embassy Lab is a prototype for experimenting with future functions of embassies in the current age of EUization, globalization and digitalization.

Embassy Lab is developed by Hybrid Space Lab together with the Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands Embassy in Berlin and Kingdom of The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague.

realated PROJECTS