One of the key components of the final term of the MPP got underway this past Friday – the Policy Analysis Exercise (PAE). This simulates working in a policy team on short timescales to produce a briefing and recommendation on a complex issue for a senior figure in government. The exercise integrates much of the overall course and provides students with an opportunity to flex their analysis, advocacy, presentation and writing skills all at the same time.
This year’s PAE topic is dementia, specifically the national and global response to the issue of dementia which were highlighted through the G8 Dementia Summit that was held in London in December 2013. The students choose which country they represent and have a week to develop a briefing on what has changed since the G8 Summit, what the national response should be and finally how the multilaterals should approach the intersection of the dementia agenda with the post-2015 development agenda.
Through the week the students receive expert briefings on the topic and at the initial briefing they are given a resource pack which gathers the most relevant materials (mimicking the fact that their office will have some prior research and materials to hand). We are really grateful to this year’s participants which have included Dr Matt Norton (Alzheimer’s Research UK lead on policy), Dr Tarun Dua (WHO lead on dementia) and Professor Carol Brayne (Director of the Institute for Public Health here at Cambridge). The expert briefings provide a variety of perspectives and allow the student teams to get up to speed very quickly.
The final briefings will be given in two days time and we’re excited to see how the students have handled the complexity of the issues within the PAE. They will have 10 minutes to present with 10 minutes of Q&A, as well as delivering a recommendation memo, a press advisory and a briefing book showing their evidence and analysis.
Exercises like the PAE can never fully replicate the reality of being in the room for big decisions and complex analysis. This exercise does however bring together all of the core element from the rest of the programme and ask the students to use them in a real time fashion.
It will be very interesting to see the outputs of the first PAE and even though this year’s isn’t even finished planning starts now for the PAE for our second cohort of students. Here’s hoping we can keep the topic as much a secret as we managed with this first one!