Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Teaching Budgeting To Intelligence Analysts (Link List)

One of the things we like to expose our students to here at Mercyhurst is the unspeakable horror of the budgeting process.  If learning to be an intelligence analyst were not difficult enough, trying to figure out what that analysis is worth and what you can reasonably charge for it, is sheer, but necessary, agony for most students.

To make the process a little more interesting (or maybe just a little less onerous), there are a number of simulators that I have either used or would recommend to add depth to lessons on budgeting for intel analysts.  All of these simulations help teach the points that budgeting is often a series of painful trade-offs, that some expenses or policies that receive an awful lot of attention don't really matter when it comes to balancing a budget and, finally, understanding your priorities is the key to achieving your goals while staying within your budget.

Budget Hero.  This is one of my favorites and I have used this successfully in class.  This simulation asks the student to determine which policies they wish to enact and which they wish to ignore and then shows how their decisions will impact the US federal budget next year and over the next 20 years.  The data is mostly current and is based on Congressional Budget Office figures and projections. 

New York Times Budget Puzzle.  The target in this recent interactive infographic is the same as above -- the US federal budget.  The presentation is very different, however.  The interface is simpler and it would be a better choice if time is an issue.

Budget Simulator.  This online product is very different from either of the previous two simulators.  Here, you can actually create your own budget, list your own priorities and involve your students in establishing what matters within the scope of a budget.  The possibilities here are quite intriguing.  For example, the East Sussex County  Council in the UK is using the simulator to help gather input on how they should cut the budget by a whopping 30%.  

I am sure there are other budget simulation programs and games available.  Leave your favorite in the comments!
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