Facing the Future Conference 2017 – Collaborative Working for a Sustainable Future

This year Esther Carmen and myself, as part of the Centre for Environmental Change and Human Resilience (CECHR), were asked to organise the annual Facing the Future conference, in partnership with AdaptationCONNECTS from the University of Oslo and the International Futures Forum.

Facing the Future is an annual two-day postgraduate conference for Masters, PhD and early career researchers from the sciences, social sciences, and humanities, organised through the Centre for Environmental Change and Human Resilience (CECHR), at the University of Dundee, and James Hutton Institute.  It’s purpose is to promote interdisciplinary discussions and collaborations around the WICKED problems of the 21st Century.

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The conference took place on 28th & 29th August 2017, at the James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie, and brought together 55 delegates, speakers and facilitators from across more than 15 disciplines including, natural science, anthropology, social science, arts, finance, psychology, law, and planning arts, and representing 15 different countries from all continents except Antarctica!!

On day one Professor Karen O’Brien of University of Oslo kicked the conference off with a collaborative ice breaker, that asked groups of delegates to lower a helium stick to the ground, without anyone taking their fingers off.  Turns out this takes a LONG time, and the key to success is communication and shared decision-taking. She then provided a keynote speech that impressed on us the importance of being able to wear other people’s perspectives of the world, like putting on different pairs of glasses.

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We then broke out into three groups and ran a Turbo Talks session, which gave all delegates the opportunity to introduce themselves and their work, and then have a chance to network with each other on shared topics and visions.

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After lunch Anthony Hodgson and Ian Kendrick then introduced us to the Three Horizons process and got delegates to start to map out what collaborative practice looks like in present day.

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On the evening of the first night the whole conference party gathered for dinner at the HMS Frigate Unicorn, a historic warship of nearly 200 years of age.  After drinks and an utterly delicious vegetarian and home grown dinner from Falkland Kitchen Farm of the Falkland Estate, delegates threw themselves, quite literally, into a traditional Scottish Ceilidh, led by the brilliant Canongate Cadjers Ceilidh Band.  Hot, sweaty and out of breadth, this certainly made sure we all knew each other really well and meant that when we kicked off Day Two, we were like old friends.

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Professor Bruce Goldstein led day two with a keynote exploring the unexpected turns and failures in our careers and how his career led him to exploring learning networks and the way in which small scale learning and innovation can feed its way up to mainstream practice. He then introduced us to the Netweavers Network, a network to support those who run networks.

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Tony and Ian then picked the Three Horizons work back up and delegates worked their way through identifying the core features of Horizon 3 and Horizon 2, for transforming collaboration for a more sustainable future.

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We finished the conference with a reflection circle, that unexpectedly led to a group discussion and exploration of the personal dimension of the transformative work that we are all striving to do.  And we celebrated the need to take care of ourselves, in order to achieve these goals.

On behalf of Esther and myself, I’d like to thank Karen, Bruce, Tony, Ian, Adrienne, Stephan and all the delegates, for a wonderful two day conference.  It was such a privilege to spend two days with such an international and discipline rich group of people, who brought much laughter and fun into the discussions and debates of the conference.

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Here’s to more Collaboration.

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