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The Conversations

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Take a small, diverse group of people in mid-career. Young men and women beginning to make their varied marks on the world. United only by their age and their 'Star Quality'. Get them to step outside their daily lives for three days. Bring each group together at a country retreat. Challenge them to explore their hopes and fears for society a decade hence. Urge them to prescribe ways in which their hopes can be realised, their fears assuaged.

This is the essence of The Gordon Cook Conversations and if you have not already done so you might want to take 3 minutes to watch our introductory video. Watch the video.

Stimulated by specialist and provocative Insights, and supported by experienced facilitators, Conversations get you thinking about all those big issues that get squeezed to the margins of frantic daily lives. The Gordon Cook experience will confront your most deep-seated prejudices. Test your most cherished values. Discussions can be intense. Even electric. The experience is always stimulating and rewarding.

start quoteAn enlightened and participative way to prepare key people to meet the really big challenges that lie ahead.end quote
--The Gordon Cook Conversations

In an increasingly complex and fast moving world the only certainty is that tomorrow will be very different from today. Technology, Demographics, Environmental and Ecological pressures, Economic globalisation, shifting Values and waning Ethical standards… in their range and diversity they boast as many peaks as an Alpine landscape.

The leaders and opinion formers of tomorrow will need a formidable array of intellectual skills both to scale the issues and to generate credible solutions. But where in the all-consuming pace of everyday life, do they find the space to do the necessary thinking?

The Gordon Cook Conversations provide one practical, tried and tested, successful solution. Following faithfully a form and structure devised in 1980 by Charles Handy and Peter Linklater, the Conversations are sponsored by The Gordon Cook Foundation, with additional support from Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, The MacRobert Trust, Lansdowne Partners, and Thames Water.

start quote… their discussions were always stimulating and their reports insightful, but the ultimate benefit was the realisation that they had a responsibility to help shape the society which they were likely to inherit.end quote
CHARLES HANDY (The Empty Raincoat)

Participants, typically aged between 35 and 45, are drawn from a wide cross-section of society. From politics, the civil service, business, the professions, the church, education, trades unions, arts and the uniformed and social services. They come from throughout the United Kingdom, from the European Union and from the USA.

The main criterion is that they are men and women already demonstrating leadership in their chosen career -- but with significant future potential. Their task is to develop, through facilitated conversation, a best and worst case scenario for how the world might evolve over the next decade. A strictly enforced Chatham House Rule, and the creation of a unique ethos of trust, ensure open, honest debate, and strict confidentiality. There is no 'reporting back' on participants, no mandatory pre-reading, nor, indeed a post-meeting workload. Participants usually resolve to meet again five years and ten years hence to review and revise their scenarios.

start quote…. The mechanics of the interaction just worked, and brought out the best in us.end quote

What, then, is the essence of The Gordon Cook Conversations? The mix of participants, and the group dynamic they generate is crucial. Those who organise the meetings, facilitate the discussion groups and provide insights, have accumulated considerable experience in assembling the right mix of ingredients. In the end, though, success is determined by the commitment of those who come and take part.

The meetings last for three nights, two-and-a-half days. Is it worth the investment of that much precious time? Certainly the value is unlikely to be immediately measurable. But it is there in the long term. It lies in the quality of the wider intellectual challenge the meeting has offered, as well as through the diverse network of contacts and friendships, which result.

start quote… in the midst of the happenings of a hectic professional life the meeting stood out as a unique and inspiring event, having an impact that stretches far beyond the days we were togetherend quote

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