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Florida International University is a partner university of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomacy Lab. Diplomacy Lab is a Department of State (DoS) initiative that leverages university students and faculty experts to conduct open-source research on foreign policy challenges pertinent to bureaus across DoS. Launched in 2013, Diplomacy Lab underscores Secretary of State Kerry’s commitment to engage the American people in the work of the State Department and broaden the Department’s research base in response to a proliferation of complex global challenges.

The mission of Diplomacy Lab to “course-source” research and innovation through colleges and universities across the United States was founded on two pillars. Engagement and Education. By engaging with USG public diplomacy practitioners, students participate and explore real-world challenges while allowing policymakers to tap into an underutilized reservoir of intellectual capacity.

As a partner university, FIU conducts research around various topics presented by the State Department in areas including counterterrorism, democracy and human rights, disinformation campaigns, climate change, global health, and energy security. Student teams are recruited to undertake the Diplomacy Lab projects. Over the course of the semester, faculty members and subject matter experts guide the students in developing a final work product that achieves the goals outlined by the Department. Students have opportunities throughout the semester to engage and discuss their research with State Department officials.

Past Team Projects:

Building U.S. Capacity to Fight Disinformation on the Digital Battleground
By: Moon Medina, Barbara Fernandez, Maximo Ulloa, & Zue Lopez

Charged with helping the Bureau of European and Eurasian Public Affairs to Poland more effectively understand how to counter malign actors in the disinformation realm. This team conducted an analysis of how public diplomacy press shops can utilize social media algorithms to proactively disseminate positive and strategic communications narratives about USG policy priorities. Examining malign actor’s tools including trolls, bots and cyborgs, the team highlights tactics utilized by these actors in their efforts to manipulate public audiences in Warsaw. Through their engagement with faculty and Department representatives, the team successfully developed a strategic disinformation-narrative tracking tool to measure the effectiveness of disinformation in the digital media sphere.

Exploring the Downsides of Cryptocurrencies in Developing Countries
By: Eitan Casaverde, Henry Allen, Kathleen Obrer, Cesar Muir, & Nicolas Denis

Assigned to assist the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs – Office of Caucasus Affairs and Regional Conflicts in examining the implications of developing countries’ investments in the cryptocurrency sector. This team assessed the economic incentives in embracing cryptocurrency versus the potential downsides, including exacerbation of corruption, regional economic isolation, and debilitating impacts on democratic development. The team applied this analysis to the developing nation of Georgia, a country that rose to the top of the global race to expand cryptocurrency, second only to China. With the support of its government, Georgia has emerged as a major hub of Bitcoin mining and other cryptocurrency-related operations. This report helped provide the Bureau with a fresh perspective on how Georgia can adopt policies to maximize the benefits of cryptocurrencies despite the risks to security.

The Challenges Foreign Fighters Present to the Security of States in North Africa and the Sahel
By: Tatiana Arevalo, Mia Cleary, Jennifer Rivera, Laerke Lorwa, & Sabrina Pecorelli

Facilitating an impact analysis for the Bureau of African Affairs, this team was charged with identifying the challenges returning foreign fighter present to the security of a state. The team focused on examining Tunisia’s shared border with Libya, and the vulnerabilities Tripoli’s ongoing instability creates for Tunisia and the region. Despite its democratic transition, Tunisia has contributed over 3,000 foreign fighters to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The team focused on proposing effective ways Tunisia could engage and influence these returning foreign fighters while reintegrating them back into society. Throughout this report, the team highlights and suggests engagement strategies and policies to alleviate conflict and mitigate radicalization.