The SOIF Retreat 2019 — a report from Day 1

Hartwell House: the view from the window

Note: re-posted after we streamlined our Medium accounts

It is the week of the SOIF 2019 Retreat, when policy-makers and practitioners come together to learn with us about how to use futures to improve outcomes. It’s held at Hartwell House, in Buckinghamshire in the south of England. Chris Skelly, a member of the facilitation team, will be posting on how the event unfolds.

Chris Skelly writes: I’m participating in the 5 day SOIF Workshop. My first. And only my second ever 5-day futuring event ever. Looks like a wonderfully eclectic group. And the first day has set us on course for an enjoyably intense week.

I will write about what it is we are doing each day, and then when I get ‘back to the ranch’ I will start planning the next Public Health Dorset futuring event.

Soif (noun)

thirst [noun]: a strong and eager desire for something; thirst for knowledge.

Soif (acronym)

School of International Futures.

Too Long; Didn’t Read (TL;DR)

Capacity building is the primary organisational challenge for developing your organisation’s foresighting ability. Foresighting or futuring seems to attract a ‘certain type of globalist’, so we’d best beware of our biases. The changing nature of ‘non-traditional actors’ now and into the future is something worth keeping an eye on! Every organisation needs an official Clown and big organisations need an official Plain Clothes Clown Division.

What we learned

There is a Clown among the invited speakers. Not kidding.

That there is a global organisation called The Ismaili Imamat and that they, like so many organisations are using foresighting methods to create their future. Their Ambassador is a former Canadian diplomat, Arif Lalani.

Most organisations, government, private sector and NGOs struggle to build foresighting capacity within their organisation and also, importantly, to create space for futuring discourse.

NGOs can be framed as ‘non-traditional actors’ whose role is evolving — they may have started out as primarily ‘doing organisations’ who sought out funding to undertake their ‘charitable endeavours’, but some have, with the support of seriously wealthy benefactors, become funders of good works in their own right. A few are even starting to set the local, national, regional, and global policy agendas.

Non-traditional actors.

Many of the tensions in the world created by the accelerating pace of change are reflected in emergence of two ‘types of people’.

Anywhere People: Benefit from globalism, live across boundaries, feel at home anywhere, particularly in ‘the west’.

Somewhere People: Displaced by globalism, work and life do not cross boundaries, feel attached to a somewhere, particularly in ‘the west’.

This was an interesting discussion. Got me thinking about our ‘grand challenges’ and bias; it was evident that most (all?) of us in the room fit into the Anywhere People crowd.

Perspective?

  1. build their vision
  2. manage risk
  3. develop awareness and agility of what is happening around them

Live Challenge Briefing by ‘our client’ Luminate.

Very few G7 countries seem to be maintaining a cohesive future vision of their place and aspirations in the world. However, many smaller and emerging nations are doing this. Food for thought.

Something that resonated with me — a discussion about the key challenges in building foresighting capacity — getting decision-makers to create the space and make time for futures thinking. It requires effort.

You have to ‘market foresight scenarios’ as a tool — the value won’t be immediately understood by all.

Strategic foresighting helps organisations to:

  1. build their vision
  2. manage risk
  3. develop awareness and agility of what is happening around them

Live Challenge Briefing by ‘our client’ Luminate.

The Live Challenge is a central part of the SOIF learning experience: a real problem, answer not yet known, set by a real organisation which wants to know the answer. Luminate is related to the Omidyar Network whose Systems Practice course some of my colleagues and I have done. Brilliant course and very related — check out Systems Practice! It will definitely help groups with their futuring work too.

  1. governance, public service, surveillance and security
  2. economies dependent on data and digital
  3. communities, society and civic voice
  4. a changing global order.

The Live Challenge: In 2030, how will digital technologies be used and governed in pursuit of the common good?

  • Who will have decision-making power in the future?
  • What types of organisations and people?
  • Will national security and technology economic interests align?
  • Is this good or bad?

The Luminate goal is ‘Building Stronger Societies’, and they certainly seem to be putting some resource into this, according to their web page — they supported more than 236 organisations in 17 countries with over US$306.

Sort of proves the point about the evolution of non-traditional actors.

We had a very interesting question and answer session after the Luminate presentation. The real question is: ‘who gets to define the ‘common good’? However, there are four useful focal areas:

  1. governance, public service, surveillance and security
  2. economies dependent on data and digital
  3. communities, society and civic voice
  4. a changing global order.

And some useful questions:

  • Who will have decision-making power in the future?
  • What types of organisations and people?
  • Will national security and technology economic interests align?
  • Is this good or bad?

No small challenge this week…

What we did

The workshop sessions at the Retreat were co-run by Cat Tully of SOIF and Kristel Van der Elst of The Global Foresight Group.

We started with a Hawai’i Opening Exercise. Participants paired up for 10 minutes to share three stories about their:

  1. name (all of it)
  2. community
  3. gift

I’ve done this exercise before — in a Maori Marae in New Zealand, during a cultural induction course many years ago. It is a great way to break the ice and get straight into ‘the narrative groove’.

Most people had not encountered this particular exercise before, and have never considered their personal introduction, “Hi I’m Chris”, to be a story, but of course for most of us, especially in a non-formal setting, telling our stories is not something we do (or at least very often). It was good fun and some participants have hilarious stories.

We had 30 people in the room and everyone had a timed 45 seconds to deliver their story, which was challenging for many, but we got there.

  • no one suggested that their ‘gift’ was being able to foresee the future! whew.
  • we are all fairly ‘place’ focussed in the telling of our stories.
  • many of us seemed not to have a ‘place’, but were ‘global citizens’ (I didn’t mention to my fellow participants what the last British Prime Minister thinks of us…)
  • Our ‘where we are from’ stories are complicated, by and large.
  • We ‘live’ for change — we seem to thrive on it. Another big whew.
  • Finally, we all seem to be story tellers.

Ten Statements about the Future: 90-second exercise to assess whether these statements are ‘likely’ or ‘unlikely’. Done silently by each individual.

This stimulated an interesting and quite spontaneous discussion about the future. It was simple, quick, and powerful in that it could be used to expose our ‘hidden mental models’. I will definitely try this out in my next Futures Event that I will run for my organisation later this year.

One word reflection: Around the table we went. Great summarising technique by Cat Tully.

The take away messages

Telling our stories (in 45 seconds) shows that the people attracted to this futuring event share a few common traits.

Making progress in the development of in-house foresighting capability requires that we get a few things right — but taking others in the organisation along with us is essential. We do that by telling great stories and helping ‘change the perspective’ of those we are trying to influence.

“Changing perspective is everything”.

Random thought, almost everyone I have spoken to on Day 1 has some connection with Canada: Citizens, residents, jobs in foresighting, etc. Challenge — find someone with no connection to Canada and Canadian foresighting.

Originally published at https://medium.com on September 18, 2019.

--

--

--

SOIF, the School of International Futures uses futures and foresight to help shape change for the better.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Ten tips for increasing the profitability of your law practice | TimeSolv

Interning in Covid-Era: diary of an intern in a plague year (1/3)

How might we share responsible tech learning for the greatest impact? — Part 2

A dew-laden photo of a spiderweb; a metaphor for the connection and reciprocity we want to achieve in the way we create shared space for learning.

Pip & Nut Field Sales Interns

How did we get here and what can we do about it?

Our Trip to AlterConf NYC

Getting into Social Innovation — at Holis

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
School of International Futures

School of International Futures

SOIF, the School of International Futures uses futures and foresight to help shape change for the better.

More from Medium

Innovation Ecosystems and Business Composability in a Post-Pandemic, War-Hit Decade

Strategic Management Human Resources

Why we’re excited about algae: Efficient modes of carbon capture

The Great Revelation