100 leaders. One ship. No technology. Only us together in conversations about the future of humanity and our planet.
Program manager and organizer
Community builder and facilitator
It started as an experiment and resulted in a global community of changemakers
FutureTalks started with a crazy idea: “What if we bring together 100 incredible people. People from all sectors and continents. Young and old. A super diverse group, but with one common denominator - that all are passionate about building a better future. And what if we take them to a remote location? A place with no wifi or mobile coverage. A place where we can engage in deep conversations about the status quo and the road ahead. Without googling for the right answers. Without being interrupted by emails, work calls, or social media. A place where everyone will be forced to just be present in the now.”
With FutureTalks we wanted to connect amazing people who would normally not meet and bring together the most diverse group of interesting and passionate people we could find to dive into deep conversations about the status quo and the path ahead for people and planet. Unlike most communities that are silo focussed on specific verticals - that be tech, or climate, or education - FutureTalks took a system thinking approach and brought together leading personalities across sectors, geographies, and age groups. From the very beginning it was clear that if we were to bring this crazy idea to life, it was critical to have a big group of young people involved. Discussing the future without the future present, made no sense. Too many events. Too many politicians. Too many networks. Too many companies. Simply too many . . . focus on the future without involving the future itself - the youth.
So - with the idea only we chartered MS Nordstjernen to take 100 amazing people on an Arctic expedition, and from the first conversations with people we wanted to invite as founding members, it was clear that we were touching on a nerve. That this crazy idea of bringing 100 people to no-man’s-land for deep conversations resonated on a deep level.
All FutureTalks members were handpicked, and 42 countries were represented onboard the ship. 56% of the delegates were women, and almost 40% were youth and young professionals. The youngest member had turned 18 only days before the expedition started. We had astronauts and AI experts. Hollywood celebrities and philosophers. Climate activists and poets. Professors and students. Royalty and refugees. And more… The most diverse group that has ever come together in the Arctic for sure, and maybe globally.
FutureTalks is set up as a non-profit foundation, and you can visit the website here.
Four days in the Arctic Dessert
The Arctic Expedition connected and touched people on a very deep level. As soon as we boarded the ship people left their CVs behind and bonded in an open and vulnerable way. This was about hearts and passion meeting on equal grounds - regardless of age, background and merits. Much planning was put into ensuring that this would happen.
The 4-day expedition was designed paying extreme attention to details. At the core of the experiment laid bringing the leaders of today and tomorrow together as equals, and facilitating engaging discussions and conversations from holistic and system-driven perspectives breaking down the normal silos. Often one sees a divide between the young and the established, the representatives from different sectors, and from different geographies. We wanted to avoid this and for everyone to get to know each other as human beings - and not as CVs. Removing everyone from access to technology was part of this strategy; Googling each other was not possible in the isolated Arctic dessert, and without data or wifi, a safe space was created where social media sharing could not take place. To deepen the level of connection even more, we published a book called "Ice Breaker" profiling everyone where personal stories and reflections were shared, and during the expedition, everyone was encouraged to write postcards and reflection cards to themselves and other members that were sent by mail to everyone in the months following the expedition keeping the memories and experiences flowing. FutureTalks was all about connecting the hearts on equal grounds.
Onboard the ship we managed to create a safe space where everyone bonded as a family. There were very few who did not cry or share extremely personal stories. “Healing” and “Lifechanging” are the two most common words used by members to describe the expedition. While many of the C-level people had needed approval from their boards to be away from coverage for four days, the same people are now bringing tech-free meetings back to their companies, and to make senior leaders share tiny cabins with bunk beds (we were slightly worried about how this would go down), proved to be no problem at all. A lot of effort was put into bunking two people that should connect, and this worked as well. Whereas some of the senior people had a top-down approach to the youth delegates the first day, this quickly turned, and one of the most beautiful moments I witnessed was a deep conversation between one student and two global executives where the young person was sharing her ideas and experiences, and the older leaders were in tears thanking her for taking the time to explain. We started out as 100 people, and ended up as a family.
The Arctic Expedition took place under Chatham House Rule, and both the program and results from our discussions are hence private. The main idea behind the FutureTalks experiment was connecting people, and our belief that "magic happens when the right people meet" has proven true again and again based on the numerous projects and initiatives started by the members after the expedition. The expedition has even resulted in two marriages!
Would not have been possible without our network and long history of proving success
Acceler8.'s Silje Vallestad has build non-profits, leadership networks and startups since the young age of 14. Her work over the past almost three decades has earned her roles such as being honored as a Young Global Leader by World Economic Forum and has put her in the center of leading networks building friendships and close relationships with some of the most inspiring leaders globally. Without this access and their trust in her vision and mission, FutureTalks and The Future of Everything conference would never have seen the light of day.
The FutureTalks community is always available to us, and many of the founding members are advising Acceler8. on projects and supporting clients we work with. We have access to world-leading experts and influencers, and we create win-wins for our clients and experts when there are fits.
"I have been to a number of high-level gatherings of the "best and brightest" and people who want to change the world. This was altogether different. It was intimate. It was intense. It was real. We shared ourselves, not just our work. We shared our vulnerabilities, not just our dreams. We took a group of 100 people from all around the world, young and not so young, accomplished and just starting out, artists and technologists, activists and entrepreneurs and forged them into a team, a community — a family. A bond people will drive across a city to re-connect. A bond people will make time for. A small group that could very well change the world."