The Foreign ministry of Germany mandated Synthetron to learn from online debates for its 2014 Review process

Back in November 2013 German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier launched a “What goes wrong?” reflection on Germany’s foreign policy to consider what needs to be changed.

– Read the  article about this project in the Economist

Synthetron came into play when external expertise had to be complemented by internal knowledge of both the central staff in Berlin and their colleagues in embassies around the world.

Starting at the beginning of November 2014 we ran four 75 minute debates, each reflecting on different aspects of cultural and procedural issues – three in an overall context and one especially focused on ways how to handle European policy aspects in the light of the newly established European External Action Service. Around 350 participants exchanged nearly 3,250 ideas.

The analytical work was done in four steps:

  • An immediate response converting significant raw data from each debate into a readable layout
  • An in-depth analysis for each the 3 debates focusing on culture, creativity and organisation
  • An additional analysis on European Policy issues
  • An analysis of attitudes shown via language patterns.

We reported back on the following:

  • What participants expect as an appropriate internal culture and how they would react to it (shown as well in segments differing between central and embassy staff)
  • Top actions required to achieve the aspired culture
  • Which parameters need to be reflected in the course of achieving progress
  • What suitable communication could help to bridge gaps in a consistent way.

“Within the IT-architecture of the Foreign Office, the crowdsourcing approach offered a new, modern approach from which we learned a lot.

The Synthetron online debates were an important integrative element amongst the various formats of people involvement in the “Review2014” Process. It was only with the assistance of this methodology that we could offer the chance to take part in the process to colleagues from all over the world in a very short time. The technical potential of your product as well as the manifold options for evaluating the data were a big gain for us. We were also impressed by the quick analysis of the underlying patterns of the participants on the basis of the structure of the language they used.

I realised that an efficient cooperation between your specialists and my team is indispensable in order to coordinate the Synthetron expertise with the knowledge of the processes and specials of the Foreign Office and to make use of them in a most efficient way. This was a success.”

Author's imageThomas BaggerMinisterialdirigent Head of Planning Department, Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany


We appreciated the very open and flexible cooperation between the planning office in the Ministry and our project members. Additionally, it was of great value for the project to work together with the Mercator Capacity Building Center for Leadership and Advocacy, which helped to steer the internal part of the Review 2014 process as a whole.

Steps to turn the review 2014 into new ways of working will be based on a spectrum of fishbowl discussions, gallery walks, workshops to derive new ideas and of course on the outcome of the Synthetron debates. Foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier announced to go public with a first reflection on February 25th 2015.

Berlin/Brüssel, February 18th 2015