The School of International Futures flagship retreat returns for its fifth successive year. Join us this August to learn how to plan for and respond to future challenges and opportunities in an increasingly complex and uncertain world.

At SOIF2016, participants will learn how to apprehend and address new risks and emerging opportunities and how to plan for the future. They will leave ready to implement foresight in their organisation.

Throughout the retreat participants will follow a learning journey that distils our knowledge and experience working with international governments and organisations into a systematic framework. Over the five days they will gain a deep understanding of foresight concepts, enhancing their ability to shape the future and make a difference in the world.

Download the programme or read the storify for a taste of the retreat.

The Retreat

SOIF is more than a process and set of techniques. Participants share their experience and ideas, and past events have been the starting point for several new collaborations. Taking a long, hard look at the future helps us bring today’s issues into perspective, so that we are better equipped to anticipate change, manage risk and build better futures.

  • Learn the science of strategic foresight – strategic foresight tools and methods that can be used to make a real difference in your organisation.
    Appreciate the art of strategic foresight through panel discussions and debates with expert practitioners and leaders who have successfully used foresight to impact decision-making across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors internationally.
  • Develop confidence and practical experience in the craft: by working through a “live” policy challenge set by a real policy client during guided practical sessions.
  • Learn SOIF’s Four-Stage process – Scoping, Ordering uncertainty, Implications and Integrating Futures. Acquire the judgment to use different foresight tools tailored to your organisation and needs, and arguments and techniques for communicating the value of taking the long-term into account.

The Programme

SOIF retreats are a unique mix of executive education and conference designed to make you a confident commissioner and intelligent user of foresight. Throughout the retreat we will introduce you to new concepts, case-studies and tools in our Faculty sessions, build on these with Keynotes and Panel discussions with real-life examples from leaders who have used foresight to achieve change, and provide you practical experience using foresight on a project from a real policy client in the Live Challenge sessions.

We teach a number of foresight tools during the week drivers of change, scenarios and tools for surfacing implications. The toolset is important, but equally we will move beyond these to ensure we are building the structures and processes to build change and communicate the impact of foresight. To achieve this we put the decision-maker and the decision at the heart of the process, and work with participants to build confidence with tools and approaches that support their decision-making process.

Contact and exchange is central to the retreat and we provide space for informal exchange and networking. We will support you to consciously reflect on your own learning throughout the week and build your personal practice of sensemaking and actively thinking about the future and to become more comfortable when working with uncertainty.

We Provide:

  • Dynamic learning sessions with world-renowned experts and thought-leaders
  • A systematic approach to understanding global challenges through foresight
  • Training in a range of foresight tools, including drivers of change and scenario development
  • Hands-on practice of techniques, with interventions from practitioners and leaders who have successfully put techniques into practice
  • Lectures, keynote and panel discussions on the use of foresight in policy-making
  • Practical experience working through a live challenge

Themes and Live Challenge

At SOIF2016, in addition to our focus on strategic foresight, we explored three themes: a methodological question, a policy issue, and a geographic “Live challenge”.

Our methodology theme was the “role of history in foresight” – the value of looking backwards when you look forward to understand the worldviews, culture and politics that shape the future. We will look at what we take from our past into the future, as well as examining the dynamics of time and how cycles of technology adoption, of generational human influences, and patterns of our communities unite our past, present and future.

With the help of our expert speakers and faculty, we explored future impacts of “mega‑science and space”. How will new technologies shape the future? We will explore emerging frontiers of innovation and discovery and how they might impact governments, business and citizens.

Finally, our Live challenge focused on Iran. Joining us to set the challenge was Mr Saeid Khatibzadeh of the Iranian Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS). This wase a unique opportunity to look at the region from a long-term perspective – not only to look forward, out to 2030 and beyond, but to learn from the past. Iran has a longstanding tradition of strategic thought and foresight study and we look forward to building a stronger alliance between our communities.


At #SOIF2016 we were joined by a host of excellent speakers and faculty (expert commissioners, practitioners and users of foresight) as well as private and public sector policy planning/government leads and experts in futures thinking. Speakers at SOIF2016 included:

Sheila Ronis Professor and Chair, Department of Management, Walsh College
Nik Gowing Former BBC World News Presenter, BBC
Mazlan Othman Project Director of Mega Science 3.0, Academy of Sciences Malaysia
Martin Rees Astrophysicist and space scientist, University of Cambridge
Jim Dator Professor Emeritus and former Director of the Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies
Rosemarie Forsythe Former Director, International Political Strategy at ExxonMobil and Former White House National Security Council Director for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian Affairs
Mat Burrows Director of Strategic Foresight, Atlantic Council, Washington D.C. Former Counsellor, U.S. National Intelligence Council and principal drafter, NIC publication Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds

Who should attend?

Whether you have already taken part in strategic foresight exercises or are new to the field, the retreat will make you a confident commissioner and intelligent user of futures techniques. If you set the strategic direction for your organisation, lead a strategy or innovation unit, or are setting up your own foresight function, you will benefit from the new analytical and professional perspectives SOIF2016 provides.
96.5% of participants at SOIF2015 said the retreat would significantly impact their work and 100% said the retreat was worth their time.

Participants work at a senior level in strategy, policy, leadership and analytical roles in governments, NGOs, international organisations and businesses. Participants at SOIF2015 included representatives from Shell Global, UK Ministry of Defence, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs; European External Action Service; Gordon Institute of Business Science, South Africa.

SOIF is international — Our retreats draw attendees from all six continents, and we typically have around 15 countries at each retreat.

SOIF builds a community — Whether you are a foresight practitioner, user or commissioner, we help you build connections with people working to solve the same kinds of problems you are facing.

Any questions

To find out more about #SOIF2016 or SOIF Retreats please contact us at +44 (0)300 302 0486 or events@soif.org.uk

The School of International Futures is a treasure that anybody interested in managing for the future should not miss.

Director, Strategic Foresight Initiative Atlantic Council

Excellent teaching modules, tools and activities

Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology
Tomas Ries at SOIF2015

The School of International Futures offers high-quality presenters, varied and robust methodologies, and an opportunity to network with other futures practitioners from around the globe.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, New Zealand

It’s brilliant, to bring together so many nationalities throughout the world, to think through these things in one place. It’s ten out of ten.

Executive Director African Public Policy & Research Institute

Very professional. Well designed and organised. High quality of faculty.

Scenario Planning Team Shell Global

Since my participation in the Mont Fleur scenarios more than 20 years ago I rarely witnessed a more impressive learning experience.

Scenario Planning Consutant

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