Border check in Dar es Salaam
Border check in Dar es Salaam

In the glorious surroundings of Cumberland Lodge in Great Windsor Park, Claire Coote and Bruno Tran, from the Food and Markets Department of NRI, recently led a two-day course for 30 PhD Scholars from Commonwealth developing countries.

The course, undertaken on behalf of the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission (CSC), offers an overview of development issues and guides Scholars on ways to maximise the developmental impact of their PhD programmes.

The training course includes suggestions on how the Scholars can pursue development links while still in the UK, considers the academic and development impact of their own research and guides them in drafting a development strategy that will support them on their return to work in their home countries. It further includes an introduction to development project management tools –which are key for effective implementation of development initiatives.

Cumberland Lodge is run by a charitable educational foundation to facilitate workshops and training events for young people to discuss "burning issues facing society".

The group of students came from 17 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Asia. Their feedback was very positive and they praised the training for its content, its interactive, experiential approach with lots of group work and the empathy of the facilitators.

One student participating on the course said: "The content was rich and the facilitators understood very well our cultural settings", while another said: "[I particularly appreciated] the interactive nature of the presentations, the honesty of the presenters and the targeted approach of the module".

The bespoke course was developed by NRI and it mixes presentations, exercises and discussions. It encourages the students to reflect, discuss and exchange their own experience and questions. It ends with a development project management simulation game, developed by the team, which was also highly appreciated. NRI will continue to provide the courses on behalf of the CSC for the next 21 months.

Bruno Tran commented: "This was a very intensive weekend, but I think we have found a good balance between a broad and detailed content, whilst at the same time making space for a lot of interaction and discussion. The weekend was hard work but it was also good fun, and it was a delight to meet another group (a pilot course was run in March) of enthusiastic and highly intelligent CSC scholars who are determined to make a difference to the development of their countries".

Photo by Bruno Tran: Students from Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Malaysia and Bangladesh discuss how they start to shape their individual development strategy