From calculating the sustainability of sea bass to negotiating access to resources for an interactive game, Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff are learning economics for foreign policy the LSE way. LSE Enterprise has recently signed its third three-year contract to deliver courses for all Foreign Office professionals.
LSE Enterprise has worked with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) since 2003, running a customised economics training programme for diplomats. The multidisciplinary training uses experts from several LSE departments. It covers micro- and macro-economics in a political context, alongside international and development economics, and is designed to give participants an applied understanding of the economic arguments behind key policy issues.
'Where else in the Foreign Office would I get the opportunity to get a strong understanding of why the economic crisis took place; what is driving global prosperity; an overview of micro and macroeconomics and what the fuss is all about regarding globalisation, all in five days with two LSE leading economists leading the debate?'
Peter Bainbridge, First Secretary South America Regional Climate Change Advisor, Brasilia
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The level one course is now compulsory for all professionals joining the FCO and has been completed by over 700 participants. Level two spans three weeks and covers the interaction of policy, politics and economics at a more sophisticated level. LSE Enterprise has now signed a contract to deliver this training for a further three years.
Until 2010, the courses typically took place at the FCO's offices in Whitehall. But FCO staff are posted all over the world, and many would benefit from studying closer to home. Course pilots for level one were therefore planned for Brasilia and Singapore.
LSE Enterprise has had extensive practice in holding courses abroad, from north Africa to East Asia. Project coordinator Jeremey Shipp comments on the benefits they can bring.
'With enough participants from the same area, we can focus the course on the region, addressing local issues. In Singapore, for example, there was a particular interest in sustainability and environmental issues including climate change and carbon trading. The academics can also tailor their teaching styles for the audience – the Brazilian group was particularly interactive, while in Singapore we took the diversity of the group into account as participants had arrived from Tashkent, Tokyo and everywhere in between.
'Flying out the academics rather than dozens of participants and providing the course packs electronically rather than in print made this a very green course. Meanwhile the savings on airfares and participants' time significantly reduced costs for the FCO.'
The courses use a variety of teaching methods: case study analyses, seminar discussions, simulations, interactive games, and self tests. In the fishing game, for instance, participants form companies attempting to maximise their fishing profits, while negotiating fishing rights and dealing with sustainability issues. The trade game involves teams of rich and poor countries with unequal resources, negotiating with each other and the bank to create and sell their goods.
Combining theory with practice, fundamental principles with current issues and global trends with country-specific examples ensured that the course was directly applicable to participants' work. 'It will help me to deal better with companies' concerns when deciding whether or not to invest in Brazil,' commented one participant. 'I will have a much better understanding of the policy negotiations within the G20 and World Bank,' said another, 'and be able to find synergies between trade and development policies'.
'Of course, running a course abroad makes good communication between us and the client essential,' says Jeremey. 'We rely on the FCO to have the necessary arrangements in place, from accommodation to flipcharts. Their organisational skills are very impressive, so we've had no major issues to handle although working around the volcano disruption was interesting….'
Programme director Yury Bikbaev is excited about the next three years of working with the FCO. 'We are delighted that this collaboration between the LSE and FCO is continuing and expanding with a much wider reach of delivery – with Tokyo, Amman and Mexico City as our next destinations – and we look forward to working together even more closely as the FCO's foreign policy objectives are being refashioned.'
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