The Big Conversation

Research Pilot

April 2021

The Big Conversation

Last year marked the start of a 5-year strategy for the British Council to strengthen its position as a leader in the fields of Arts and Culture, Education, and English. An integral aspect of this strategy is to engage in research and shape its work around evidence-based solutions. In this context, the British Council commissioned the LSE research team to conduct a Pilot to launch the Big Conversation project, using cutting-edge research to gain a better understanding of values and meta-values within and across countries and populations.

Building on the foundations outlined in the Scoping Study, we identified that there was scope for advancing the research on values to promote cooperative relationships across nationalities and cultures, with a focus on interactions between language, inclusiveness and cross-culturalism.

Our approach aims to maximise the comparative advantages of the British Council vis a vis other stakeholders. These include, on the one hand, its worldwide presence and manpower, and on the other hand, its previous corporate values, the intercultural dialogue values of mutuality, respect, tolerance, equality, diversity and inclusion. These are in themselves examples of meta-values that, if promoted through facilitated spaces for deliberation, are expected to enable cross-cultural engagement. This is precisely one of the goals of our proposed approach: test whether the meta-values promoted by the British Council improve deliberation and cooperation among different groups and, if so, how and under what conditions.

Furthermore, the study coincided with the unique eruption of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, and we have aimed to adapt both the practicalities of our fieldwork and the analytical core of our research plan to this new global threat and disruption facing the world.

Finally, it needs to be emphasised that this is a pilot, intending to test various iterations of research in view of inferring the best route for future upscaling of the work across worldwide countries and contexts. In that sense, we used a flexible analytical framework in order to allow for both elements of comparison but also leave space for the possible expression of alternative conceptions of values or value prioritisation. This also meant maintaining a rather broad model of how values might cluster together around such conception as business values, multicultural values, humanist moral values, and utilitarian values.