Into the Future with #CCLKOW

by Dr. Jill S. Russell, @jsargentr

Over the last year, members of faculty at King’s College London and West Point Military Academy have been producing blog posts on subjects of professional interest to military practitioners and academics alike. This has then generated professional discussions on social media sites under the hashtag #CCLKOW. There are big plans this year to expand the range of discussions and contributors to the #CCLKOW Professional Discussion. Contributors to Defence-in-Depth will be participating in these new plans, with the aim of drawing in the students at the UK Joint Services Command and Staff College to the discussions that follow. The following post was originally published on CCLKOW ProChat. It highlights the plans for the year ahead. Look out for the first CCLKOW ProChat soon!

The summer has provided us with the opportunity to reflect upon what we have done, where we are, and how we would like to proceed. In this piece I would like to review each of those, with particular attention, especially for the purposes of discussion, on the last.
This enterprise began on a whim. There was a critical presence of military personnel on Twitter interested to discuss relevant issues, and between Jon and myself, we were keen enough to write on a regular basis to put compelling issues before the audience, rounding out our contributions with a decent spread of other voices on both sides to make it more than just our views of the world in the writing. (And we are very grateful to those other authors and hope they will continue to write for us.) The active participation — the discussion on Twitter — has gone very well, too, but that has not been the limit of the success. There has also been significant support and popularity outside of social media, and I am frequently informed by colleagues in the US that the pieces are picked up for consideration in other arenas. As a completely unplanned effort with little to no official support, it is difficult not to see this as a resounding success.

If that is where we came from, where do we find ourselves now? I am very certain that everyone will join me in regretting the retirement from the Army of our most enthusiastic co-founder. One day I will meet Jon, but until then I am assured by everyone who has that he is exactly as passionate, concerned, energetic and kind as he comes across in his blogs and on Twitter. Boom! But armed forces can only succeed if they can survive the ritual of leadership transition. And so, particularly as he comes highly recommended and supported by Jon, I am happy to introduce our new opposite number from the Company Command Leader team at West Point, Captain Micah Klein. While Jon promises to remain involved with our endeavour, I am looking forward to the new perspectives Micah will bring to the enterprise, to the breath of fresh air his participation will bring. I am not going anywhere — you people are stuck with me — but my circumstances and mandate have changed as I take up a teaching position at the UK staff college here in Shrivenham. 

From this new perch of institutional academia I too will see things differently and will bring that to my writing. Thus, we stand at present, strong and reinvigorated with fresh blood and new vistas.
Which brings us to the future. Where will we go? With a new leader at the helm at the West Point side I have every expectation that he will bring his own distinct approach to the pieces produced at that end. If I might make one suggestion for his side of the endeavour, I think it would be fantastic if we could get similar representation at times from his similar peers in the academies of the other services. In a joint world, even company grade officers will benefit consideration of the issues from the perspectives of the other components. Beyond that, however, I will leave it in Micah’s capable hands to chart his own course to take both CCL and his part of CCLKOW where he thinks is best.

At my end, we have ambitions of our own. The Defence Studies Department, which is responsible for the academic side of things here at the staff college, will be taking a larger role in the writing and the discussion. We have had the pleasure of hosting a piece from Huw Davies, and in addition to his future contributions, we will have more from other members of the department. As well, I will be inviting students on the courses here to write for us, which will increase the British perspective on things, adding nicely to the trail already blazed by our Colonel Panter-Downes. Finally, we will be working to increase the participation of the faculty manning the sprawling US professional education establishment. With this larger author pool we will be interested to expand the subject areas covered, to increase the breadth and depth of coverage at the policy, strategy, and high operational levels. I am excited at the prospects for the KOW side to become even more dynamic and far-reaching in the topics and perspectives it will be able to put before our audiences.

But CCLKOW is not the blogs alone. In fact, the written pieces, while critical to the pursuit, are the far less important (and sometimes less interesting) part than the discussion which ensues. We do not write for the vanity of seeing our own thoughts upon the screen — it is all down to the participants in the discussion. And for that, I would like to thank those who have jumped in and joined the hashtag. It is that effort which has made this endeavour a success. With that in mind, and on the way to wrapping up this piece, I will put these questions to the participants:

First, I am interested to know what sort of content people are interested to see. While authors, are generally focused to write on what we know and interests us in our own work, a sense of what will move the audience can help us shape those whom we invite to write. Casting your minds to the topics covered, and with the freedom of plotting a new course ahead, what are the topics and issues that you think must be addressed?

Second, we have a dedicated cadre of discussants. They have been critical to breathing regular life into CCLKOW. However, I would like to see more and more diverse users on the hashtag. Beyond expanding the purview of the content — which we will do — how would you approach the challenge of increasing the participation?

Third, is the wildcard. What feedback do you have for us, on any topic?

And with that I will shut up and invite you all to join the discussion, on Twitter, at #CCLKOW.

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