International Futures Forum

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The International Futures Forum is a think tank cum PR agency funded by big business and with links to the Futures Forum of the Scottish Parliament and to the California based Global Business Network with which they have several members in common.


In 2004/05, IFF / Praxis was paid £32,000 by Nirex "to provide corporate communications advice in relation to the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) consultation programme".[1] As part of its "programme of support" for Nirex, IFF has produced a "present and future strategy mural" for "thinking through the intractable issues of waste management over long timescales".


On its website IFF states that "We were established in early 2001 with a generous grant from BP to explore how to take more effective action in the face of the complex looming issues that threaten our future. We work in areas where there are no easy answers, where existing models fail to make sense of our confusing reality, where we are in over our heads, where we face an unacknowledged 'conceptual emergency'. We have developed a body of theory, practice and wide experience in taking on seemingly intractable challenges and developing the capacities in individuals, teams, organisations and communities to flourish in today's powerful times."[2]

But, although BP provided the money, it was the Scottish Council Foundation which established The International Futures Forum (IFF) in 2001 "to bring international thinking to bear on our work".[3], i.e. to promote policy ideas derived from policy transfer. Today, the IFF is independent of the SCF and it seems as if it has not proven particularly valuable to the SCF's rather pragmatic approach to public policy. The IFF, which tries to bring together so-called "deep thinkers" in order to "examine[s] deep structures in the modern global system in its search for a second enlightenment", has rather obscure aims and purposes.


On its website IFF states that "We now enjoy a variety of productive and mutually beneficial relationships with sponsors, clients, subscribers, research funders and others".[4]

We are grateful to the following organisations for their core support

These are some of the organisations we have worked with:

Our subscribers include:

We have enjoyed research funding from:

Steering Group

Accessed February 2012: [5]

IFF Clan [6]

(Note: * denotes Founding Fellow) Martin Albrow*, Ruth Anderson*, Tony Beesley*, Max Boisot*, Roberto Carneiro*, Napier Collyns*, Thomas Corver, Pamela Deans*, Roanne Dods, Kate Ettinger, Jim Ewing, Brian Goodwin*, Bo Gyllenpalm, Mike Hambly*, Phil Hanlon, Margaret Hannah , Pat Heneghan*, David Hodgson, Rebecca Hodgson*, Tony Hodgson*, Robert Horn, Kees van der Heijden*, Adam Kahane, Pat Kane*, Eamonn Kelly*, Rajiv Kumar, Graham Leicester *, David Lorimer*, Charles Lowe*, Wendy Luhabe*, Andrew Lyon*, Harry MacMillan*, James McCormick, Arun Maira*, Wolfgang Michalski *, Maureen O’Hara*, Aftab Omer, Ian Page*, David Peat (Canada), Maria Pereira, Noah Raford, Nick Rengger*, Vineeta Shanker, Bill Sharpe, Daniel Wahl , Jennifer Williams, Mark Woodhouse*, Chris Yapp


As Hartwig Pautz, a PhD student at Glasgow Caledonian University, wrote in a paper on think tanks in Scotland [7]:

With support from BP it "explore[s] new ways of operating effectively and responsibly in a world of boundless complexity, a world we no longer fully understand and cannot control"[1] (Accessed 17

February 2005). This world is seen as a challenge for business, government and society and confronts them with the task of "restor[ing] the capacity to act effectively and responsibly and thereby revive and foster a culture of human aspiration's. Based on this view of today's world, the IFF seeks to create a new 'paradigm' by renouncing 'traditional' ways of making sense of the world.

How does the IFF view its role in the spread of the Second Enlightenment? A diagram in one its first reports shows a "dialogue" between a variety of actors[8]. "Core dialogue thinkers" disseminate knowledge, specialist information and support to a "tier of converters", who "convert the insights from the dialogue into practical form and who disseminate it to a wider audience". This group is composed of a broad variety of organisations and actors, such as the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI), business corporations, artists and writers, the BBC, unspecified "social entrepreneurs", policy makers, the OECD and also BP.
Finally, a further group of agents, who will "make things happen on the ground", should use the information provided through the dialogue. In spite of the emphasis on "dialogue", the IFF appears to see its role almost in a Hayekian tradition of "original thinkers" who inform policy entrepreneurs or "second hand dealers in ideas"(Friedrich A.Hayek; Edwin J.Feulner and John Blundell. The Intellectuals and Socialism. London : Institute of Economic Affairs, 1998) with their theoretical and rather abstract knowledge so that they can utilise it to influence the wider society, including policy-makers. And, in fact, the IFF makes "no apology for taking seriously Margaret Mead's conviction that a small group of individuals can change the world"Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag.
Rather than being a permanent think-tank, the IFF is an attempt to facilitate an international network of thinkers, businesspeople and policy makers. During a case study trip to BP's Grangemouth refinery "the IFF group also conducted case studies on the 'learning society in Dundee'"[9] and on health provision for "deprived individuals and communities in Fife"[10] the IFF came up with a "vision" for the future of BP and Falkirk/Grangemouth.

When BP asked the IFF how it could combine the challenge of adjusting the plant to global competition bearing on mind the responsibility of BP to all local stakeholders[11], the IFF responded by proposing to understand the downsizing of the plant, which culminated in the lay off of about 1000 employees, as a creative act. As BP is a "different kind of energy company, radiating energy of all kinds intellectual, physical, creative into the community", the sacking of workers equals "releasing high quality resources into the community"[11] This rather interesting take on unemployment and economic restructuring is part of the IFF's attempt to create new management and organisational approaches. It wants to act as a kind of "spiritual management consultancy" - although behind the airy language of challenges and creativity we find statements with stark consequences if put into practice: for example, the IFF's stance on the NHS generated 'entitlement culture' which should be transformed into a more creative 'gift culture', would lead to significant changes in the allocation of resources, as gift cultures rely on their reciprocity rather than on solidarity and social contracts.[10]


International Futures Forum
PO Box 29207
St Andrews Fife KY16 8YU UK
Phone: +44 1334470090
Email: editorial AT

Articles and Resources


  1. David Wild, Freedom of Information Request, Letter to Jean McSorley, Senior Advisor to Greenpeace UK, July 15, 2005.
  2. IFF, International Futures Forum, accessed April 2008.
  3. "About Us", Scottish Council Foundation, Accessed May 2, 2006.
  4. 4.0 4.1 International Futures Forum, "Partners", accessed April 2008.
  5. International Futures Forum Steering Group, organizational web page, accessed February 6, 2012.
  6. International Futures Forum IFF Clan, organizational web page, accessed February 6, 2012.
  7. "Think-Tanks in Scotland", Paper presented to 55th Political Studies Association Annual Conference, 4-7 April 2005.
  8. Project Prospectus: December 2000", accessed April 2008.
  9. "IFF Learning in Dundee. A Second Enlightenment View", undated, accessed April 2008.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Health in Fife: a second enlightenment view", accessed April 2008.
  11. 11.0 11.1 "IFF Enterprise in Falkirk", p. 2, accessed April 2008.

Related SourceWatch Articles

External links

  • Hartwig Pautz, "Think-Tanks in Scotland", Paper for the 55th Political Studies Association Annual conference, University of Leeds, 4-7 April 2005.