Two familiar faces in London’s diplomatic community Rt Hon Alexander Downer AC and Dr Annette Prandzioch say that the new International School for Government at King’s College London provides governments from across the globe with the opportunity to upgrade the skillset of their policymakers and civil services

THERE’S NO DOUBTthat the process of governing is getting increasingly complex. For a start, a well-educated global public is becoming more demanding of high standards. That means there is less public patience for inefficient or misdirected policy making and provision of services. With that in mind, political leaders and civil servants have to be able to evaluate policies using the most contemporary tools and methods available. What’s more, all governments struggle to match the public demand for entitlements and infrastructure with available resources.  Reconciling scarce resources with ever growing public demands is a core political challenge for all governments, wherever they may be.

Secondly, the public have better ways to express their views. Social media is ubiquitous and unforgiving.  Mistakes or poor service are quickly highlighted and telegraphed to the wider community.

The media more generally can be punishing. Increasingly civil servants need to understand how it works and how to deal with the media.

Related to these trends has been the progressive digitisation of government. This can bring with it substantial efficiencies, better service for clients and dramatic improvements in productivity.  But it does also bring privacy challenges. Citizens can become uneasy about how their data is stored, managed and used. What is more, introducing digital systems is not straightforward.

These days, policymakers – be they political leaders or civil servants – need to have an astute feel for how the restless public will react to government initiatives. There’s a great deal more to public behaviour than supply and demand. Policies often fail because their architects fail accurately to predict the public response. Recent work in America and Europe on public behaviour helps policymakers understand better the likely reaction to new programmes, be they social, environmental or economic.

We have all been struck by the increasingly acerbic nature of public debate. Whatever the reasons for it, we all need to contribute to creating more civil forms of dialogue. It’s one thing to disagree with someone or with a government. Or for that matter, for governments to disagree with each other. But it makes sense to disagree politely. That is all the more possible if we learn to empathise with each other. That doesn’t mean sympathise or to build a soggy and unrealistic concept of consensus. That is seldom possible.  It means understanding the other person’s point of view and showing due respect.

There are already many universities that offer excellent courses in public administration and management. But few address these very contemporary challenges which those in government – wherever they are in the world – face.

So this year we are trying to fill that gap by establishing a new International School for Government at King’s College London. It is both a challenge and privilege to shape this enterprise.

The School provides governments from across the globe with  the opportunity to upgrade the skillset of their policymakers and civil services with an emphasis on these contemporary governance issues. The aim is to allow governments to operate at the highest possible level and to assist civil servants and policy makers in developing their professional skills.

The new School has its own team, but also draws on support from across King’s, which is high up in university league tables, featuring among the very top universities in the world. And being in central London, the School can easily draw not only on UK talent from Whitehall and Westminster, but also visiting ministers and policymakers from across the globe.

The School offers a unique smorgasbord of entirely interactive online modules, which include weekly live webinars allowing civil servants to interact with academics and their global peer group without having to leave their desks.

Modules can be taken either alone or in combination with other modules. Each module is taught over a period of four weeks. Approximately 50 hours of study time will be required for each module.

Individual learners gain academic credits at Masters’ level on successful completion of each module that can count towards a certificate, diploma or masters.

An international perspective is integral for the new School and the modules draw on global experience and expertise, looking at case studies and approaches across the world.

The first six modules about to be launched are on the topics of: User-centred Digital Government; Learning What Works; Robust Decision Making under Deep Uncertainty; Approaches to Policymaking; Communications and Public Policy; and Empathy and Emotion in Policymaking.

Modules have been trialled with both the UK and Indian civil service with excellent feedback.

Further modules currently in development, or being considered for development, include topics such as: ethics, governance and rule of law, understanding political leadership, participatory and deliberative democracy, regulatory policy and politics, behavioural insights and public policy, public management, conflict resolution, mediation and negotiation, the economics of public policy/the public sector, and understanding and using data.

There is also a module currently under development for new parliamentarians and their staff, Working in Parliament.

The International School for Government draws not only on the outstanding academic expertise within King’s but also brings in external expert practitioners to teach the most contemporary governance topics – for example, the module on Robust Decision Making under Deep Uncertainty is being co-developed by the US institution the Rand Corporation.

The School also offers bespoke executive residential courses at the special request of governments. And a flagship Executive Masters will be introduced within the next couple of years.

A formal launch of the new School will take place later in 2019, to which we look forward to welcoming the diplomatic community.





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