SOIF2019: The Retreat, Day 1

We are reporting daily from the SOIF 2019 Retreat,at Hartwell House, in Buckinghamshire, when policy-makers and practitioners come together to learn with us about using futures to improve outcomes. Chris Skelly, a member of the facilitation team, will be posting daily to our Medium account on how the event unfolds. Here’s an extract:

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’, 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.

Types of people

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 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.


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.

Live Challenge Briefing by ‘our client’ Luminate

The Live Challenge is a central part of the SOIF learning experience, and has been set by Luminate, which is related to the Omidyar Network.

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

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…

Photos by Maggie Greyson: CC BY-NC-ND.

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