Embargo Period


Degree Name

MA in Intercultural Service, Leadership, and Management

First Advisor

Bruce Dayton


This study explores what factors have limited strategic measurement of outcomes for ‘mutual understanding’ across U.S. government-funded public diplomacy exchange programs by conducting a thorough desk review of available materials, completing a meta-review of twelve existing evaluation reports, and coupling this with interviews with eight evaluation practitioners. The sample of programs included were selected based on the criteria that ‘mutual understanding’ was an explicit goal in the program design. Programs included: Fulbright Student Program, Fulbright Scholar Program, International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP), Youth Exchange and Study Program (YES), Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) Program, and the Peace Corps.

This paper synthesizes definitions of both ‘public diplomacy’ and ‘mutual understanding’ as used across the field of international relations and in government-sponsored people-to-people (P2P) programing. From a review of the literature, this study also captures posited frameworks, approaches and tools that can assist in measuring public diplomacy programming. It also reviews different approaches to evaluation and identifies strategies that have been used previously to measure mutual understanding and identifies pain-points for measurement of ‘mutual understanding’ and provides some possible recommendations moving forward.

Key words: mutual understanding, public diplomacy, evaluation, measurement, soft power, Fulbright, IVLP, Peace Corps, Kirkpatrick Model, exchange program, mixed methods


Policy Design, Analysis, and Evaluation | Policy History, Theory, and Methods