Thursday, May 20, 2004

Training to be the PM

How do you train to be the Prime Minister? Where does the skill set come from? How do you practice? And, if you believe the Tom Peters school of training, how do you get the chance to make mistakes and learn from them? Perhaps one of the top 5 hardest jobs in the world, requiring mastery of a multitude of subjects, the deepest understanding of Politics and politics, people and populations. A new initiative, the Copenhagen Consensus (from those Danes again!), strikes me as an intriguing way for the average bod to see how difficult it might be.
Copenhagen Consensus is based on the aim to improve prioritization of limited means. The world is faced with a countless number of challenges such as diseases, environmental degradation, armed conflicts and financial instability. Copenhagen Consensus takes a new and critical-analytical approach to assessing the effects of international opportunities for solving the challenges.
Ten challenges faced by the world, and a bunch of very smart people trying to prioritise them. They're not day to day issues but they do encompass things that have a day to day impact on millions/hundreds of millions of people. This is a sort of God game without the graphics, and without the ability to call up a solution with a quick mouseclick. This has a lot of potential. There are just 10 challenges, but they're important ones: education, governance and corruption, sanitation and water, communicable diseases. And nine experts - all econmoists. The thinking is that economists can be independent of their emotions, they can just analyse the facts and, here, the return on investment. Would a billion into one of these have demonstrably greater results than a billion in one of the others. That's truly God territory. Millions of pounds of funding may be moved from one to another of these challenges based on the outcome - some things (those at the bottom) will lose funding until they become more of a crisis when perhaps they get another chance. These 9 folks are going to be big influencers if this is successful, and it could enormously inform public debate - and take out the "positional statements" that individual supporters of any one of the 10 challenges will always be forced to revert to: the "pick me", "pick me" approach. What's missing from the site, as far as I can see anyway, is an "ask the audience". I think it would be interesting to test crowd psychology and see if the masses come to the same conclusions as the experts and for the same reasons. A league table of 10 challenges confronting us all sounds flip, but it's a way to concentrate the mind and understand at least these 10 issues - if not the 100s of others that impact us too. Next step, surely is a "god game" where you get to be the Prime Minister and run a country - where the issues hit from left and right, some sign posted and some not. Your decisions affect your population and what they think about you. Stories hit the newspapers and influence opinion. There's a lot of history in these games - the Sims, Populous, Black and White, even running football teams. But not running a country? What better way of training for the top job would there be?

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