It's been a while since I last blogged... Almost two years in fact. Actually, I haven't blogged much since the start of what became known as the Arab Spring. I was in Pakistan when protests kicked off in Tunisia and Mubarak was overthrown. When I wasn't glued to the screen, I was writing articles that now seem hopelessly naive (such as this for Foreign Policy and this for The National).
It wasn't too long before I was back working on the Middle East. But this time for government, not as a journalist. As anyone who follows me on Twitter probably already knows, I spent the last 15 months working for the UK Foreign Office as a political communications advisor to the Syrian Coalition. The demands of the job necessitated a break from blogging.
Working for government gave me the chance to get a sneak peek at foreign affairs behind the scenes. I realise now that as a journalist I fixated often on the "ideal solution". Insight is great, but solutions require having a good understanding of your operating environment. Without having some idea of how government works (or how governments work with each other), it's impossible to know what can and can't be done. Advice based on sound findings, theories and even facts is useless if it can't be enacted. And, if it can't be enacted, it's not really a solution.
I learnt from my Syrian colleagues that the people with the most potential to change things are often those who don't seem like a good story at the time - those working away from the limelight. I know now that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of Syrians working at building a new country from the ground up. I hope to carry on helping in anyway I can.
My work has shifted from researching problems to finding solutions. This blog will reflect that. I want to use the space I have here to explore the role of strategic communications in political and social change. An obsession of mine is the communications activities of the dark side, eg. ISIS, al Qaeda and Russian propaganda, so expect to see much of that.
As time goes on, I'll build up a reading list on the subject as well as list of resources (reports etc). I'd be glad to take comments, submissions and all other (useful) interjections that add to the debate. But equally, snark is welcomed - as long as its funny.
Consider this a soft (re)launch...