Session 617


In a fast-moving world, governments need to become more agile to rethink public service and envision institutions fit for new challenges and disruptions. How will innovations in technology affect governance? What are the opportunities presented, or challenges anticipated – are they fundamentally different from those in the past? Can they be dealt with through the same governance mechanisms or do we need to construct different mechanisms? What tools do public servants need to master to be fully equipped?

The annual invitation-only retreat of the Public Sector Strategy Network enables senior public sector leaders to speak openly among peers about major disruptive forces confronting governments over the next 10-20 years and how to respond and plan effectively for them. Together, they devise year-round opportunities for practical exchange and follow-up among participating countries and institutions.

By invitation only

The Network is designed to enable senior public sector leaders to speak openly among peers about challenges and opportunities for governments over the next 10-20 years and how to respond and plan effectively for them.

It builds on an initiative launched in 2010 by the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court, which involved a series of annual workshops and roundtables to develop relationships across the international strategic policy community. In the first years, government innovation directors and selected experts came together to share insights and approaches to strategy development and implementation at the center of government.

The decision to create a year-round Public Sector Strategy Network came in 2017. Salzburg Global Seminar was chosen to serve as the Network’s politically and geographically independent convener, with in partnership with Apolitical. Since then, the Network has combined an invitation-only Annual Foresight Retreat at Schloss Leopoldskron in Salzburg with additional exclusive opportunities for participating members, countries and institutions to engage with each other and have informal exchanges on key topics throughout the year.

Network membership enables participants to shape the meeting agenda to generate impact for individuals, institutions and ideas. Government representatives already active in the Network have benefited from being able to visit one another, share cross-border experience, and expand their knowledge base to better implement domestic agendas. 

In 2018, the Australian Public Service, Canadian Privy Council, Irish Public Service, Civil Service College Singapore, joined the founding partner, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court, as country partners, with additional cooperation from NESTA. 


The Annual Retreat is fully residential, with all accommodations and meals on site at Salzburg Global Seminar’s headquarters in Schloss Leopoldskron. This historic venue – a rococo palace built for an archbishop-prince, later home to Salzburg Festival founder Max Reinhardt, backdrop for the movie The Sound of Music, and now an award-winning hotel – provides an inspiring setting for privacy, trust and openness. Adherence to the Chatham House Rule ensures an open and free exchange among peers.

Next year’s Foresight Retreat will take place from Sunday, May 5 to Tuesday, May 7, 2019: 

  • May 5 will focus on two major disruptive forces, to frame the issues and to provoke participants to think deeply about the future of government in the context of those disruptions. The focus will enable learning and exchange on key themes and issues moving forward. 
  • May 6 will examine the implications of those disruptions, i.e. how to respond, what are the implications for policy in different areas. 
  • May 7 will concern the machinery of government and effective implementation. What will the future of governance need to look like to address those disruptions and how will government engage citizens around those disruptions? 

In connection with the Retreat – either in preparation or follow-up – Network members are encouraged to contribute one to two set pieces each year. These could take different forms e.g. speaking at an online session (restricted to Network members only), writing a short op-ed, or hosting other members at a site visit in their country.


The program will bring together a group of no more than 30 participants, who will include:

  • Current ministers, cabinet secretaries, similar ranking senior officials or rising stars from priority countries recognized as leaders in public sector innovation;
  • Disruptors and resource experts at the leading edge of technology, finance, communications, behavioral science, academia, philanthropy, and civil society;
  • City leaders, representing mayors or senior officials from cities in priority countries; and
  • Network multipliers, representing top public service training institutions/networks and possibly business schools.


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