Future of Trade

November 10, 2015

Earlier today I was one of 40 or so participants at the Future Agenda Future of Trade workshop in Dubai.  It is nearing the end of this open foresight project. Our organization had earlier in the year hosted a Future of Education workshop and it was really good to be able to participate in another one.

I really like the process for the workshop. Went something like this:

  1. Everyone introduce themselves and state one topic that you think will be incredible for the future of trade over the next 10 years. These are captured on post it notes on the wall by a facilitator.
  2. Next is to introduce a series of slides that have been gleaned from previous documents and workshops. Basically, they are a series of insights that prompt discussion. These slides also are in card format for each table and the deck of 60 cards is sorted into high/medium/low priority by 5 separate groups.
  3. While the teams have a refreshment break, the high priority sets are collected and noted on the slides how many times they were selected by the teams. These slides are then sorted from higher priority (5 ticks) to lowest priority (no ticks). That’s then shared with the group as a whole.
  4. Next look at what’s missing. What are the items that might have come up in the initial introductions or in the groups that are missing from the slides. These are discussed in groups and fed back to the whole group. They are noted on post it notes on the wall.
  5. Each person then gets a set of three heart shaped post it notes. While the previous discussions focused on global trends, now each person could place one of their items on three topics that they felt had the most regional/local importance.
  6. Finally as a closing, people were asked if their views changed as a result of participating in the session. This gave time for some reflection.

This process was relatively short (total about 3 hours), it kept things moving, everyone got to have their say, and global as well as local implications were covered. Participants enjoyed the conversations in groups as they were able to examine the future outside of their normal transactional activities.

Some of the key issues that surfaced included the rise of digital printing, regional rather than global free trade agreements, cyber security risks, trade in services, availability of finance, the rise of mega cities, and issues around China and Africa.

Finally, a closing comment for public servants: regulators are the only lawful monopoly the world still allows!