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Typical Timetable

Ditchley Foundation conferences are normally held over three days, starting at 4 pm on Thursday and finishing at lunchtime on Saturday.  They are designed to allow as much oral debate as possible, on the basis of terms of reference submitted in advance by the Director.  No other papers are presented and written material is rarely circulated.

The conference commences in the Library with two plenary sessions on the main components of the topic.  Each session starts with two introductory speakers to set the tone of the discussion, leading to a series of interventions from the floor.  The afternoon often results in more questions being asked than answered, but it allows preconceptions to be challenged and the principal lines of debate to be drawn.  Drinks are served at 7.30 pm followed by an informal dinner at 8 pm. 
On the second day the conference participants divide up into three predetermined working groups, covering questions laid out in the terms of reference.  The working groups meet for two sessions between 9.15 am and 12.35 pm.  Following lunch there is a two-hour break, with an opportunity to visit Oxford, Blenheim Palace or Broughton Castle, or simply to relax in the house and grounds at Ditchley.  The third working group session commences after tea at 4.30 pm, finishing at 6 pm.  Each working group rapporteur then retires to prepare a short, informal report highlighting the group’s conclusions.  These reports are made available for all participants to read after the second evening dinner. 
At 6.10 pm the Bursar offers a guided tour of the Mansion’s ground floor for all those interested in its architecture and art.  Drinks are served at 7.30 pm followed by a formal dinner where the Ditchley home team and a number of guests wear a dinner jacket (black tie), but at which a dark business suit is perfectly acceptable.

At 9.05 am on the third day participants re-gather in the Library for the concluding plenary sessions.  The rapporteur and chairman of each working group deliver a short report of their conclusions, which are debated first by the other members of the working group and then by all conference participants.  Each reporting session lasts 50 minutes and is then followed at 12 noon by a presentation from the conference rapporteur, who collaborates with the conference chairman in presenting a number of conclusions for the plenary to debate.  The discussion comes to an end at 12.50 pm.  There is then a final lunch before transport leaves for the station and airport at around 1.45 pm on Saturday afternoon.

Ditchley has found that this programme best combines time for roundtable discussion with more focussed debate in the working groups and with the opportunity for participants to meet and network informally away from the work environment.  Experience has shown that short interventions and vigorous discussion provide the greatest scope for full examination of the issues and for the expertise gathered at the table to make the deepest impact.

To download the Conference Information Sheet as a pdf document, click here.