GW Brief: SMPA professors aids African country of Lesotho

While most members of the GW community were relaxing with friends and family during winter break, professor Steven Livingston was teaching public and private sector leaders of Lesotho, a small country in Africa, how to communicate.

Livingston teaches political communications in the School of Media and Public Affairs and the Elliott School of International Affairs and worked with members of the Lesotho government to create a new communications infrastructure for the country.

“My work with the government was intended to find out what the problems were with the way the government of Lesotho is organized for the purpose of communicating with the public and to come up with a series of solutions for those problems,” Livingston said.

Suffering from political instability, Lesotho’s Minister of Communication Mothejoa Metsing sought new perspectives on ways the government and the people could communicate. The U.S. State Department was aware of Livingston’s expertise and initiated a meeting between him and Metsing. Impressed with his ideas, Metsing invited Livingston to meet with him and other government officials in Lesotho, and they drafted a plan for the new infrastructure.

Although there were problems with the way the government in Lesotho interacted with the media, Livingston’s work had an immediate effect on the country’s communications – he was able to get a radio station back on the air. The Lesotho government had shut the station down over the summer.

A State Department official will present Livingston’s finalized communications proposal to the government of Lesotho on his behalf in the coming months and Livingston said he is optimistic about the plan’s success.

“An accomplishment like this highlights the caliber of our faculty. The students are learning from a faculty member who has firsthand experience in facilitating change in world affairs and communication,” said Paul Fucito, a spokesperson for SMPA.

Livingston’s experience in Lesotho has already made its way into his classroom. Livingston communicated with GW students through Blackboard during his time abroad, discussing government accountability and media structure, a major theme in his classes and his research.

Livingston said, “My research in the real world has a direct effect on what I teach in the classroom.”

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