The School of International Futures flagship event returned to the Hartwell House from 6-11 August.

Each retreat teaches the science and art of Strategic foresight, the skills you need to understand change and disruption and how to create future-ready organisations in an uncertain and increasingly volatile world.


The Retreat


Our retreats provide a unique combination of executive education, insight, and understanding of how to use foresight with impact. By attending you will learn how to take a systematic and imaginative approach to the future, to identify emerging opportunities and threats, build resilience, and critically to connect future insights back to policy and decision-making today.

  • Learn the science of strategic foresight, tools and methods that can be used to make a real difference in your organisation. SOIF’s four stage process for foresight with impact and tools such as horizon scanning, scenario analysis, wind-tunnelling and visioning
  • Appreciate the art of strategic foresight through panel discussions and debates with expert practitioners and leaders who have successfully used foresight to influence decision-making
  • Gain insight into the role of foresight, personal and organisational transformation as we explore the links between Foresight and Theory U.
  • 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

You will leave a confident commissioner and intelligent user of futures techniques, with practical ideas for implementing foresight in your organisation.

Themes and Live Challenge

Every foresight retreat is unique – in addition to our focus on strategic foresight we provide you with insights into trends in a specific policy area, new methodology, and practical experience working on a “Live challenge”.

At SOIF2018 we explore three themes: a policy issue, a methodological question, and a geographic “Live challenge” focused on the Future of China.

Policy Issue: Infrastructure and risk The infrastructure that surrounds us links our past, present and future. Whether transportation, energy or telecommunications, our legacy infrastructure shapes our life in the present and, through the choices we make now, may also constrain our futures. New infrastructure can be built to help us adapt in the face of uncertainty, emerging technology and a disruptive environment – or it can lock us in and leave us vulnerable to risk. Major infrastructure projects often span borders and decades, with both private and public benefits. Faced with the need to transform our infrastructure to meet the challenges of the Global Goals, this is a fascinating lens through which to understand resilience and long-term decision-making.

Methodological Question How to use Theory U to unleash the transformative potential of Strategic Foresight We will take a look at how Synchronicity and Theory U can be harnessed to help drive personal and organisational transformation. With the help of our speakers we will explore different aspects of this issue, including: how do we lead from the future as it emerges; how can we presence into the future; what leadership capacities are needed?

Live Challenge: The Future of China We will be joined by Moeletsi Mbeki Deputy Chairperson of The South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA); who will set participants a foresight challenge looking at the future of a changing China and the relationship between China and Africa.


At SOIF2018 we were joined by over 15 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, design and strategy.

Danièle Réchard Head of Global Trends Unit and Member of ESPAS, European Parliamentary Research Service
Betty Sue Flowers Scenario Planning Consultant; Poet; Author
Gordon Woo Catastrophist at Risk Management Solutions (RMS)
Kerry Brown Professor of Chinese Studies and Director of the Lau China Institute at King's College, London
Rebeca Grynspan Secretary-General Ibero-American; Vice-President of Costa Rica (1994-98); Former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations
Joseph Jaworski Chairman of Generon International, former Shell head of scenario planning and author of the critically acclaimed international best-seller, Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership and co-author of Presence: Exploring Profound Change in People, Organizations and Society.
Jane Davidson Pro Vice Chancellor - External Engement and Sustainability, University of Wales Trinity Saint David; Former Minister for Environment, Sustainability and Housing in Wales.
Nicholas Colloff Director of Argidius Foundation and former Director of Innovation at Oxfam GB
Roger Dennis Foresight and Strategy Consultant; Former co-lead, Shell Technology Futures Programme
Rosemarie Forsythe Former Director, International Political Strategy at ExxonMobil and Former White House National Security Council Director for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian Affairs

Previous years’ speakers include: Jim Dator, pre-eminent futurist and political scientist; President Tarja Halonen, 11th President of Finland; Anne Marie Slaughter, President of New America Foundation; Amy Zalman, former CEO, World Future Society; Jill Wong, Director, Strategic Policy Office, Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore; Betty Sue Flowers, poet and author of the “Power of Myth”, Martin Rees, British Astronomer Royal, Co-founder of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, University of Cambridge; and Natalie Bennett, Leader Green Party of England and Wales.

Who should attend?

Whether you set the strategic direction for your organisation, lead a strategy or innovation unit, are setting up your own foresight function, or are just curious about the future you will benefit from the new analytical and professional perspectives SOIF2018 provides. If you have already taken part in strategic foresight exercises or are new to the field, you will learn the skills and techniques needed to create change in your organisation and to communicate the impact of your foresight work.

Participants work at a senior level in strategy, policy, leadership and analytical roles in governments, NGOs, international organisations and businesses.

Previous participants include representatives from Chevron; Delma Institute, UAE; Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs; European External Action Service; Garten Rothkopf; Malaysia Industry-Government Group for High Technology; McKinsey and Company; National Commission of Security, Colombia; Save the Children; Shell Global; The African Public Policy and Research Institute; United Nations; UK Ministry of Defence.

SOIF is international – Our retreats draw attendees from all six continents, and we typically have over 18 nationalities 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.

Discussion is conducted under the Chatham House Rule to provide you with the space to reflect, exchange insights and build lasting relationships.


This year’s event took place at Hartwell House, near Aylesbury, UK. This historic house is an intimate setting for debate, ‘fireside chats’ and creativity in the British countryside. Attendance was limited to 25 participants.

Any Questions

To find out more please contact us at:
+44 (0)300 302 0486 | events@soif.org.uk | @SOIFutures #SOIF2018

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

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

Curious what to expect? Read our blog post from SOIF2017.

Or download last years’ programme

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

Scenario Planning Consutant

Excellent teaching modules, tools and activities

Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology

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