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This is an archive site and is not updated. It represents works conducted by Oxford University Museums funded by Arts Council England between 2012-2018. For information about our current work please visit

The Long View: How futures thinking can help us plan and innovate

Cultural institutions play such a vital role in defining and preserving key aspects of culture within societies over the long term, but ironically are often bogged down in short term issues that seem to threaten their ability to survive and flourish in the present - often around resources and funding.The Future Foundation, which has extensive experience as a consumer insight partner to global agencies and brands, has designed a one-day intensive course for cultural leaders.

The course will explore the potential benefits to organisations, and their audiences, in taking a long view and investing time in understanding the underlying factors which will shape their future operating environment. This kind of horizon scanning offers organisations a greater ability to direct their own futures, enabling long term resilience and clarity of mission, rather than being buffeted by short term crises, policies and trends.

The Future Foundation successfully delivered a similar session as part of the Oxford Cultural Leaders programme in March 2015. Participants found the session stretched their thinking and offered new insights into strategic planning and organisational development:

 'The future cards were brilliant. Working on the cards and seeing how we could apply them to our own organization was really interesting. This was the session I was anticipating most eagerly before the course and it was really useful. I have been using the cards at work…. I would be very interested in a further session on scenario planning.’

OCL participants, March 2015

The workshop has been designed to be highly interactive and will immerse delegates in the techniques and approaches used by futures experts.  We will also hear from cultural sector leaders who are now applying these techniques within their organisations.  The day aims to enable delegates to:

  • Understand and apply the basic concepts behind futures thinking and scenario planning
  • Explore how they can use these concepts to provide a fresh and challenging perspective whilst developing their own mission, strategy and innovation programmes
  • Experiment and gain confidence with tools and techniques to create their own internal futures and stakeholder engagement programmes
  • Identify the real drivers of the future in their sector and levers available to them to shape change in their institutions and across the sector.
Friday, February 26, 2016 - 09:30

What does the Future Foundation do and how is it relevant to the cultural sector?

Future Foundation works with organisations in all sectors to help them successfully apply futures thinking to their strategic planning processes.  It supports senior management teams to apply  trends and identify underlying drivers  to create more dynamic  strategies, formulate better policies and initiate competitive innovations. For our sector futures thinking can help us in a wide range of ways:

  • Identifying and assessing emerging audience needs
  • Challenging thinking about the future operating environment
  • Articulating a strong future mission which maps out more resilient future opportunities
  • Innovative design and delivery of programmes of activity.

Over two decades the Future Foundation has undertaken more than 200 individual projects and recent work has included:

  • The Class of 2035 for Youth Sport Trust – this was designed to help government, local authorities and schools plan for creating future generations of healthy and fit children in the changing technological environment and in the context of deepening social inequality
  • The Stadium of the Future for MBA/O2 – here the challenge was to envision the reality of the totally connected crowd and stadium of the future to help scope out the application of emerging technologies in the context of major live events
  • The Traveller of Tomorrow for Amadeus/Kwittken – this project worked to identify how travel will have changed by 2020 and what it means for the global leisure traveller of tomorrow based on a powerful new  ‘tribal’ segmentation system in order to inspire and inform innovation in the travel sector.

Course Leader: Melanie Howard, Chair, Future Foundation

Co-founder in 1996 and now Chair of the Future Foundation, a leading international global trends consultancy, Melanie has worked with a large number of organisations, across many sectors, to explore how futures thinking and applying trends can improve strategy and enhance real leadership. She has a long term interest in looking at how visual culture and social understanding can be combined to better effect. As a visiting Business Fellowat InnovationRCA she has worked with designers and artists in various ways to explore how futures thinking can improve design and entrepreneurship and equally how design can improve futures thinking. 

In her role as visiting executive professor at Henley Business School she has taught Masterclasses in Futures Thinking and advised the Henley Centre for Customer Management. As well as being a Trustee of Women In Sport she sits on the Tribunal for the Freedom of Information Act.

Facilitator: Lucy Shaw, Programme Director, Oxford Cultural Leaders & Head of Oxford University Museums Partnership

Oxford University Museums Partnership is an Arts Council funded Major Partner Museum consortium (Ashmolean Museum, Museum of the History of Science, Pitt Rivers Museum and Museum of Natural History).  Lucy manages the partnership and works with the wider museum sector to deliver a programme of wide-ranging projects and activities from audience development, education and outreach, to collections management, conservation, and leadership and skills and knowledge sharing.  A major strand of her work has been in developing Oxford Cultural Leaders, an international programme for museums, heritage and the arts, in partnership with the Saïd Business School.   

Lucy has over 20 years' experience of the museum sector and has worked with a wide variety of museums, galleries and related organisations, from voluntary run independents and local authority services to the nationals.  Before joining the University of Oxford she was running a successful business as a consultant developing, leading and managing projects and programmes that focused on strategic development, organisational change and workforce diversity.

Facilitator: Traci Dix-Williams, Director of Operations, Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust

Traci will be giving a case study of how she has used the Future Foundation’s Trends cards in her work at Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust.

Traci has worked for the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust for over 25 years in a range of escalating roles. Her current role as the Director of Operations encompasses many departments;  she is responsible for the day to day operation of all ten sites as well as working with the Operation Team to bring in new initiatives and improvements; and manages the Lifelong Learning Department which hosts over 70,000 formal school visits per annum as well as a range of outreach and holiday activities. In addition she is responsible for Retail, and Conference and Banqueting, as well as Volunteering and Stores and Transport.

Traci has to be very responsive to day to day issues as they arise but she also works as part of the Museum Strategic Management Team to help develop both the strategic plan and business plans for the Museum as a whole. For a large part of her time at the Museum she was the Curator of Social History and Manager at Blists Hill Victorian Town and got to see both these roles come together in the Blists Hill redevelopment project which was completed in 2009.

Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Headley Lecture Theatre, Beaumont Street, Oxford, OX1 2PH

If you need any further information please contact the Oxford University Museums Partnership team: | 01865 613784.

Booking Details: 

This session costs £125 to help us cover the cost of venue hire, refreshments, speakers’ travel and facilitators.

Places can be booked through the University's online shop by following this link.