Operating In Challenging Environments Fundamentals, Masterclass

Register now – 2020 world tour tickets.


The greatest insights, experiences, and opportunities often lay outside the boundaries of our, and our organisation’s comfort levels. Whether it’s travelling to new cultures or markets, places with minimal infrastructure, or a variable rule of law. 

What is the optimal mindset for operating in these challenging environments? What are the skills, tools and processes that should be in place that maintain the optimal balance between risk and reward? What are our legal and moral obligations to do the right thing by our local team, the people we interact with and our organisation? And how to do it in such a way that informs and inspires our teams, while managing risk and maintaining the integrity of the organisation?



Studio D has extensive experience of running design, research and strategy projects on the ground in some of the world’s more volatile places, often for months at a time. For the OCE Fundamentals Masterclass we’ve partnered with the team at Spartan9, specialists in risk assessment, mitigation, and evacuations to develop a curriculum that combines the best of nimble research practices with agency-grade mindset and processes.

We believe that empowered teams deliver better results.

It complements the Operating In Challenging Environments Fundamentals Advanced Ops, Masterclass.


Our one day OCE Fundamentals Masterclass combines focused presentations, group discussions that draw out the experiences of the group, and team activities. There are plenty of opportunities for participants to share their own experience and insights. The day includes team activities that turn theory into practice.


The masterclass focuses on two core themes: how to prepare for travel; and how to operate on the ground.

Our approach will show you how to realistically assess risks and threats, build out a risk mitigation strategy that is appropriate to local context and the bigger picture. You’ll learn how to prioritise risks, to enable you to focus on the reason for your travel.

We’ll start the day working through the practicalities of preparing for an assignment. You’ll learn “tricks of the trade” to help you avoid pitfalls that can doom your assignment from the start. You’ll learn how to build out and work alongside a trusted local team. We’ll cover how to select the optimal accommodation to enable your team to work effectively, while maintaining sufficient security. 

In many urban settings, it can be challenging simply to move around town. We’ll discuss local transport options, including local drivers, and the pros and cons of using a security escort. You’ll learn how to read the street and, just as importantly why and how to let the street read you.

We’ll share insights in how you can navigate corruption, and how to frame it in a way that enables you to achieve your objectives without compromising your personal values.

We wrap up the masterclass by learning how to negotiate corrupt environments. And what to do when targeted by local intelligence agencies.



  • Learn how professionals assess and mitigate the risks of operating in challenging environments.

  • Broaden the range of contexts in which you can effectively operate.

  • Rapidly adapt to unfamiliar and complex environments, reducing the time and effort it takes to ramp up projects.

  • Establish and assess the trust of local support networks.

  • Assess risks and threats, learn when you need to step up protection.

  • Identifying the biases that impact risk-related decision making.

  • Avoid pitfalls that can jeopardise your assignment or threaten your and your team’s safety and the integrity of your organisation.


The workshop is for anyone who travels to, or who works in challenging environments, whether working in-house or as a freelancer/consultant, journalists, NGOs, expedition leads, and adventurous travellers.



OCE Fundamentals is lead by Grant Rayner, the founder of Spartan9 and advises Studio D across a range of projects.

Grant has spent the last seventeen years working across Asia and the Middle East as a security and crisis response consultant, solving difficult problems in challenging environments. Prior to this, he served thirteen years in the military in a range of special operations and intelligence roles.

He brings a wealth of diverse real world experiences to the masterclass from protecting maritime vessels from pirates, establishing security protocols in volatile regions, negotiating with warlords, to extracting nationals in life-or-death situations.

In 2020 Grant will lead one of the Studio D expeditions in Afghanistan.