Name: Richard Boly

Position: Director, Office of eDiplomacy, State Department

Best known for: Boly is leading an ambitious State Department initiative that uses social media and online platforms to change the way employees communicate and reach outside their boundaries to advance U.S. foreign policy interests. One example is Tech Camp, a series of two-day conferences for civil society organizations and technology experts to identify and apply low-cost, easy-to-implement technologies to shared problems. At a Tech Camp in Lithuania, activists from nations with repressive governments learned how to keep their groups safe online when they use social media to organize protests. Boly’s team created the Virtual Student Foreign Service that has allowed about 350 college students to engage with State Department diplomatic posts overseas.

Interns have worked with college students in Beijing concerning perceptions of U.S. culture and assisted the U.S. Embassy in Timor-Leste to teach poor youths civil engagement techniques via Web-based applications.

Boly launched Sounding Board, an online site where employees have contributed nearly 2,500 ideas for making the State Department more effective, and Corridor, a professional networking platform similar to LinkedIn that has allowed nearly 10,000 users to form groups, share what they are working on and locate State Department experts. Boly also expanded Diplopedia, the wiki-based online encyclopedia of foreign affairs information that has 15,000 articles written by 5,000 State Department employees.

Social media guru Richard Boly, director, Office of eDiplomacy at the State Dept. (Courtesy of Richard Boly /COURTESY OF RICHARD BOLY)

Government work: Boly was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador during the mid-1980s and later joined the Foreign Service. He has served as an economic officer at the U.S. Embassy in Italy, worked in the office of European Union affairs at the State Department, and had tours in the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Paraguay. He became director of the Office of eDiplomacy in 2009.

Motivation for service: “Public service is a value instilled in me by my family as I was growing up and is something I have always held dear. Serving the public is sometimes not well respected, but it is something that has great intrinsic value.”

Biggest challenge: Moving from “Why we can’t” to “How we can.”

Quote: “Our goal is to make sure diplomats have access to information whenever and wherever they need it. I passionately believe that the tools we have developed will help us achieve our foreign policy objectives.”

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