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David, only yesterday a school owner here in Bucharest, where I'm on business for a few days, was remarking how strange it was that the BC here was at one minute helping local businesses and the next competing with them. As for "reporting directly into myself",

a) Ooer Missus
b) How can anyone look themselves in the face after coming out with such grinding and soul-destroying corporate bullshit?

Close 'em down forthwith.


Thanks WhitSt. It's difficult to add to that - corporate bullshit has indeed taken over. I suppose career advancement and survival through to pension means that you have to read it with a straight face and play along. And that is, as you say, soul-destroying. I heard your Bucharest story from Sudan and Mozambique but I think the affliction is probably universal and endemic.

Neil Robertson

The most recently published BC Board Minutes discuss the problems they claim to be having finding auditors. Apparently the extensive foreign travel involved puts applicants off? If anyone in their right mind believes that excuse then I'm a Flying Dutchman! The minutes are as ever heavily redacted for 'commercial' reasons but they again confirm the intimate nature of the link between British Council and UK Government (eg UKTI). http://www.britishcouncil.org/sites/default/files/documents/Board_Minutes_09102012_redacted_0.pdf

Neil Robertson

' 4. Report from Audit Committee
Claire Ighodaro, Chair of the Audit Committee, reported to the Board following the meeting of the
Audit Committee which had taken place on October 8.
She particularly drew the attention of the Trustees to the global finance change programme, which the
Audit Committee had identified as a major change programme affecting the whole organisation, and
not just finance. The Board agreed that they would welcome a more detailed presentation on the
programme to allow them to take assurance on the governance structure and the detailed business
Information in this section has been redacted/removed as it is likely to be exempt from disclosure on
the grounds that it is “likely to prejudice the commercial interests” of either the British Council or
another party, as it is defined in Section 43 (Commercial interests) of the Freedom of Information Act
The Committee had been updated on the ongoing recruitment exercise for the internal audit team and
the difficulty in recruiting suitable auditors who were prepared to undertake a role with such a
significant travel requirement. While recruitment attempts continued, alternative options were being
researched, including the potential to appoint an external body as audit partner or to share resource
with other UK government bodies working internationally.'

Neil Robertson

' 5. Chief Executive’s Report
Martin Davidson reported on his recent visit to Brazil, accompanying the Prime Minister as part of his
delegation. The visit had been valuable and helpful, allowing time to discuss greater collaboration,
particularly with relevant education organisations. The visit had allowed Ministers to learn at first
hand the huge potential for the UK to work with the Brazilian authorities in the development of English
language provision in the basic education system.
He also reported on a meeting which he and the Chair had had with Lord Green, Minister for
Business. The minister had welcomed the growing collaboration between the British Council and
UKTI and the role of the British Council both in identifying opportunities for the UK’s education
institutions overseas and in delivering services on a fee paid basis itself. He had encouraged wide
engagement with organisations across the sector.

Neil Robertson

Note too how the word 'commercialisation' is to be replaced in British Council discourse with a piece of Newspeak worthy of George Orwell: " 3. Chair’s Business
Trustees endorsed the Chair’s summary of their recent away day and agreed the proposal for
oversight and engagement with the three project areas which they had identified.
They agreed that use of the word “commercialisation” was potentially misleading and that
entrepreneurial public service was a more appropriate way to describe their ambitions for the future
development of the organisation.
When considering further the areas of UK profile and participation; partnership and entrepreneurship;
and organisational culture, the Chair encouraged Trustees to question whether the Board was being
adequately bold and ambitious to deliver the full potential of the organisation for 2020.'

Neil Robertson

' From 1993 to 1996, Kinnock worked for Lancashire Enterprises, a private consulting company and regional development agency that specializes in bidding for projects financed by European Commission Programs. Among Kinnock’s responsibilities was to put together the consortia of organizations and technical proposals in order to win contracts for projects. “I was involved in implementing the projects and worked in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Russia, Palestine and Egypt,” he said. One of the organizations that Kinnock frequently competed against and also cooperated with was the British Council. “I was quite focused on projects for consultancy, management change, and technical systems and I got more and more involved in general work for the British Council and education. Eventually, in 1996, I became a part of global management personnel at the British Council.”

In all Kinnock worked in Brussels for eight years. During that time he developed a very strong interest in Europe and the European Union. “Working in Brussels was good for that. It is such a mixture of all the European countries. However, after a while I felt that I needed to make a change by expanding into other international activities,” he said.

In 2003, Kinnock moved to the British Council office in London. One of the reasons why he enjoys working with the British Council is that it involves a mixture of different activities including arts, languages, educational and cultural projects which all have a concrete practical outcome. “I realized that running the projects of the British Council is more attractive to me than being involved in diplomatic work, which is, of course, very useful but mostly based on analysis and reporting and does not have such evident practical results,” he said.

Eighteen months ago, Kinnock got a posting to St. Petersburg. “The system we have is that when vacancies become available and get advertised, you can express interest in up to four different positions. My number-one choice was St. Petersburg and I was very, very happy to get here,” he said.

Among the first of the challenges Kinnock faced on his arrival to Russia was the Russian language. “By that time, I had studied several foreign languages and practiced them in the European countries where I used to live but did not really have much Russian. So I immediately took an intensive course that lasted for two-and-a-half months here in St. Petersburg and it helped me a lot,” he said.

An experienced learner of foreign languages and a former English teacher, Kinnock thinks that one of the key challenges for Russia now that it is entering the competitive global economy is to increase the number of people who speak English. Although he admits that the English language competence of many educated citizens of St. Petersburg is rather high and most of his team “speak better English than I do,” in terms of the general spread of English, Russia has quite a long way to go.

“Of course, it takes a lot of investment and training for teachers but it also requires a really clear understanding of what makes kids interested in languages. You should apply the open-minded, modern, and more learner-oriented approaches rather than teacher-focused ones,” he said. Kinnock also suggests that people who want to improve their English skills should watch more subtitled films rather than those in which everything has been dubbed into Russian. He also recommends reading more English-language newspapers and magazines.

As a top foreign manager in Russia, Kinnock is struck by the local bureaucratic culture. “It is incredible how many pieces of paper I have to sign daily. It is a huge amount of paperwork. I am not really used to it. In Western Europe, we are focused on taking responsibility rather than waiting for someone else to make decisions,” he said.

In Kinnock’s opinion, other problems most foreign businesspeople confront in Russia have to do with the difficulties posed by regulations and bureaucratic obstacles. “If you can get over it and find a way of getting a route to the Russian market, you’ll succeed because the competition for quality products here is not as intense as the competition for them in the U.K. market,” he said.

Kinnock believes that modern Russia is a country with lots of opportunities for those who have the right connections and contacts. “Although sometimes it is not that easy for international organizations, I suppose it will continue to open up and get better in the next five to fifteen years,” Kinnock said.

As for advice on how to effectively run an organization like the British Council, Kinnock said that it is essential not to try to do everything yourself but rather delegate well and see the big picture in order to set the right objectives for your team. “It is important not to manage all of the input but rather focus on the output and make it clear to people what you want them to achieve,” he said.

Kinnock said that the overall objective of the British Council is to work at building bridges between British and Russian organizations and stand for the value of internationalism to ensure that the ties between countries become so strong that they will never have to go to war with each other. “Although it does sound idealistic, that is what we are working for,” he said.'

Neil Robertson


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