Soft power

Still working through Monocle (Dec 2010/Jan 2011) and was interested in their piece on “The New Soft Sell”.  “Which countries get their way in the world without having to resort to military might?  Who are the soft power leaders who know the value of well-placed aid or a good pop star?”

Having grown up in the world of Lester B. Pearson I still think of Canada as a leader in soft power.  So I quickly flipped the pages to see if we had made the grade.  Well — we are 13th out of 25 — between the Netherlands and Singapore.  At least we are still on the list.

Britain and France jointly held the top spot.  According to Monocle:

“Both have governments that seem to have little natural passion for soft power but have history, language, pop culture and more on their side.  Sadly both are also led by premiers who are unable to spake a second language.”

The piece goes on to say that both countries have soft power — but that their governments don’t necessarily know how to use it.  Witness the talked about cuts to the BBC.

The survey metrics include:  number of foreign correspondents in the country, audience figures abroad for stat-sponosred media,  gold medals at last summer and winter Olympics,  number of tourists per year, Official Development Assistance as percentage of GDP, Number of foreign students per 1000 population, number of universities in the Times Education Supplement Top 200, cultural missions abroad and so on.

Canada’s column headlines with:  Good on paper but its media needs to be more ambitious.

We have a reputation for punching above our weight in terms of peacekeeping ops and in producing female pop stars — e.g. Avril, Shania, Celine, KD, Nelly, Alanis) (?)

“Part of Ottawa’s problem is that much of what it does on the world stage is refracted through a US prism…The CBC could easily be an alternative international voice to the BBC but it’s not.”

Here comes the zinger:  “…Canada is very content with its lot.”  We certainly have a lot to be thankful for — does this make us less engaged?

I was interested in the numbers — we have 101 foreign correspondents in our country,  17.1 million tourists, 0.3% GDP spent on aid.  And the panel commented that Canada is:  “Let down by its airline and leader”.

And finally, the Monocle fix:

“Public and private sector should work on producing a world-class print/web/broadcast outlet of record to offer a distinct voice to the BBCs.”

Wouldn’t that be exciting.  Wonder if anybody would have the courage to reallocate resources at CBC to emphasize the web and radio — and perhaps de-emphasize everything but news TV?

Guess maybe we should start pushing for it.

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2 Responses to Soft power

  1. Donna Morton says:

    I like this piece lots. For me the sad part is we are now also punching big time above our carbon weight class and have become a petro currency. The tar sands alone make us look hard and slimy. I liked the softer Canada too, dream of a Canada that reinvents itself as a thought leader, innovator, justice builder; now Canada seems like a big bulky brute.

    More women, more soft men are needed . . .

    Donna Morton, CEO First Power

    • Moura Quayle says:

      Thanks for your note. It is an interesting discussion at business schools in terms of what leadership looks like — what are the qualities and how do we practice? Or you can elevate that to the post-secondary sector period — how do we interest people, especially women, in leadership — both political leadership and business leadership.

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