Due to the unfolding challenges posed by Covid 19, Forward Thinking is in the process of adapting our workplace practices and approaches within programmes. We wanted to briefly outlines the changes we are enacting to protect staff and wider society, while enabling our work to continue and maintain momentum.

In line with government advice, all staff are now working from home and maintaining social distancing. However, due to the systems we have in place, the impact on our day-to-day ability to work has been minimal.

Thanks to online platforms and video conference calls, we are still able to co-ordinate programmes effectively. Our director hosts a morning conference call with all programme managers to check in and set priorities. Programme mangers then organise short meetings with the respective members of their teams to update them and receive progress reports. These are rounded out each week with a call amongst the entire organisation to discuss broader goals and any issues that have emerged over the week.

The entire organisation works on Cloud based software, uploading all documents at the end of each day. This means that if any member of the team were to fall ill, another member of the team can pick up the project easily and without delay. We can also access historic documents without needing access to our physical office.

Covid 19 of course poses challenges for Forward Thinking, given that much of our work has traditionally been based on face-to-face meetings. However, we also see important opportunities in the circumstances that we are determined to seize while travel restrictions remain in place.

Our core strength as an organisation is the established networks of contacts we have built up over 16 years of operating in the UK, Europe and the Gulf-MENA region. Many of these individuals also face restrictions on travel and may already be in self-isolation.

Accordingly, across all programmes we are systematically organising regular one-on-one calls with key members of our network. This will allow for regular analysis on regional developments as they unfold. It will also enable us to have a deeper conversation with participants on the strategy of Forward Thinking, and use their insights to inform the shape of activities in the second half of 2020.

We will also be co-ordinating with participants to explore how we can take aspects of our work online. The guidance of network will be essential is setting what is realistic and desirable. However, we are confident that we can carry out regular online activities that contribute to the overall goals of Forward Thinking. These will be shaped slightly differently depending on programme but will allow crucial conversations to continue. We are already in the process of organising online workshops in the Middle East Programme, Helsinki Policy Forum and UK Programme and will provide further updates on these activities as they take place.

We are aware that conducting activities online will require careful reflection to ensure they are implemented sensitively and effectively. Accordingly, regular evaluation of our work will be essential to ensure they are making a meaningful contribution to the aims and objectives of each programme. We will ensure the insights from these evaluations are regularly shared with key stakeholders in the coming months as our work online develops.