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Decision Making under Deep Uncertainty (DMDU)

December 13, 2017

The 2017 DMDU Workshop was held in Oxford from 13-15 November, at the Oxford Martin School. This is a grand building in the centre of Oxford which used to be the Indian Institute! About 100 people gathered for the three days, of which the first was a Training Day.

The Training Day introduced a generalised framework for DMDU methods, discussing the contents of a DMDU analyst’s toolkit.

I was delighted to hear Claire Craig talk in depth and breadth about “Informing Policy Decisions with foresight methodologies”. Her experience in the Foresight Unit before going to the Royal Society as Director of Science Policy gives her insights into how the foresight – or DMDU – community can most effectively provide inputs to policy makers.

Other great perspectives on “the real world” were provided by

  • Julie Rozenberg of the World Bank, talking about trying to help small nations get ahead of the curve of destruction caused by climate change, using Fiji as an example.
  • Leena Ilmola Sheppard of IASA in Austria, talking about using system maps to help Finnish politicians develop a shared language and so deal better with adapting to immigration in Finland, a country and society which traditionally has not seen this phenomenon.

Many of the sessions were organised to try and bridge the gap between tool sets and decision makers, in defence and security, in crisis management, in water systems, etc. Tool sets included

  • Robust Decision Making, out of Rand, and the open version MORDM
  • Value Focused Thinking, from MIT
  • Agent based modelling from Harvard

And it was good to catch up with old friends. The programme for all three days can be found at

However an unexpected plus was picking up a copy of the Oxford Martin Commission Report for Future Generations – it was published in 2013 but I had not flagged it at the time, it can be found on . While its list of megatrends has worn well, the framework for the section on challenges is of course pre-Trump and BREXIT. The sections on Lessons from the Past focuses on the importance of international collaboration and networks: and the need for these to be brought to bear on issues such as antibiotic resistance, fossil fuel usage and fishing practice – yes.

In Part C: Practical Futures, the report highlights some of the topics we in SAMI have explored:

  • Creative coalitions, as in our report “In Safe Hands” services.html which explored a future in which the world is organised around city states which cooperate to solve common problems
  • Transparent taxation, and the problems from mobility for a tax system based on land and nation states
  • Focus on the long term – clearly the core of SAMI’s “strategy with a view of the future” mission and related to the McKinsey Global Institute Report “Companies with a long term view outperform their peers”,

Reading the report did highlight for me how many of the assumptions of 2013 on the future of global society are being challenged today.

Written by Gill Ringland, SAMI Fellow Emeritus.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily of SAMI Consulting.

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