Aid for Health simulation
By news editor, on 17 December 2012
Written by Rebecca Seglow Hudson (BSc Anthropology undergraduate).
UCL’s Institute for Global Health (IGH) was the site of some heated negotiations on Saturday 8 December.
A collection of 72 students, with an enormous range of experience and disciplinary backgrounds, spent the day simulating the discussions behind international aid deals.
Students represented organisations such as the World Bank, USAID, UNICEF and governmental departments of the simulation country, Malawi. Three parallel simulations took place in three separate rooms, with each room reaching a different conclusion on the use of the $200 million that donors were offering to improve Malawi’s health system.
Prior to the event, students were coached by experts from the field on the perspectives of their organisation as well as the history of international aid and debates surrounding it in the current political and economic climate.
Using this information and their diplomacy skills, students were then ‘in character’ for the rest of the day. They strategised, debated and proposed hushed deals over coffee breaks in an effort to best spend the money available to improve Malawians’ health.
IGH’s Mike Rowson was joined by medic Simukai Chigudu and Head of Public Health at Cambridge University Professor Steve Gillam as the humorously devious ‘prime ministers’ of Malawi.
Chairing the negotiations, they frustrated students with government demands and demonstrated the inescapably human nature of complex negotiations.
In the day’s concluding reflection session, students and the prime ministers discussed the realism of the boardroom dynamics and how much they had learnt from the day.
Participants ranged from first year History undergraduates to PhD students studying Biomedicine. Delegates had to work with each other within and across organisations in order to settle a deal that all could tolerate.
Many highlighted how the day had increased their understanding of diplomacy and compromise. Aside from being a great deal of fun, the event showed students the importance of ‘soft’ skills and social dynamics in securing funding for global health and development work.