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Studio D

Operating In Challenging Environments / Umm Qays 2021

Operating In Challenging Environments / Umm Qays 2021

Regular price $1,100.00 USD
Regular price Sale price $1,100.00 USD
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An intensive training programme on the processes and soft skills required to operate in challenging environments, hosted in a beautiful residence in Umm Qays, Jordan.

While most courses on working in challenging and hostile environments emphasise process, we balance this with the softer skills required for meaningful work-travel including navigating cultural norms, coping with and mitigating culture shock, blending in, physical and emotional resilience, negotiating with officials and other local actors, and ethical considerations.


The OCE retreat consists of 3 online modules and an in-person retreat in Jordan. These are designed to be completed in sequence. You can also sign up for online modules only.

Part 1. OCE Masterclass (online)

Three live online modules at New York time (UTC−04:00). If you live in a different region, be sure to lookup your meeting time.

October 17, 16:00 - 19:00 EST Module 1: Risk Fundamentals
October 18, 16:00 - 19:00 EST Module 2: Contingency Planning
October 19, 16:00 - 19:00 EST Module 3: Preparing for high risk travel

Part 2. OCE Retreat (in-person)

November 17 - 20, 2021 (3 nights) we meet in Umm Qays, Jordan

Umm Qays


Online and in-person retreat sessions are highly interactive and draw on the hosts and attendees experience of operating in challenging environments.

Attendees will learn:

  • Advanced travel planning
  • Techniques for rapid cultural calibration
  • Understanding and mitigating culture shock
  • Information security
  • Ascertaining risk—tolerance for, mitigation of, versus the value of spontaneity
  • Rationalising threats
  • Working within and beyond organisational protocols
  • Managing oneself and teams—physical and mental wellbeing
  • Cross cultural team dynamics
  • Understanding team attributes
  • Identifying, hiring and working with fixers and guides
  • Finding the right balance between ethics and hustle
  • How to read situations—understanding the impact of your presence, social dynamics and social engineering
  • Border crossings and other tension points
  • Evacuations
  • Navigating corruption
  • The psychology of higher risk travel 

Mornings are focused sessions, afternoons include immersive activities that make the most of the locale to reinforce learnings. The setting provides an opportunity to reflect on your own career and realign to what’s next.


We’ve booked a sprawling comfortable villa that backs onto a nature reserve. The villa is two and a half hours' drive north of Amman. 

We will share more details on how to get there with attendees after booking.


Space is limited this year.

Studio D Retreats attract people from diverse backgrounds and life stages. Past attendees have included designers, researchers, filmmakers, strategists, founders, VCs, and security specialists, from independents to those working for some of the world's most interesting organisations. All have an international mindset and many are looking to broaden their network of likeminds, skillset and world view.

We also offer a scholarship for a local attendee. Suitable candidates can apply here.


- Online Training ($1,100) includes 3 online modules.

- The full package includes 3 online modules AND an in-person retreat:

  • Informing and inspiring talks and walks

  • Three nights accommodation

  • Breakfast, lunch and dinners

Excludes: flights, travel to/from venue, alcohol, visa, insurance, optional activities.


We’ll operate popup studio-style accommodation, including taking turns to cook breakfast and generally look after ourselves. Attendees will share gender split rooms. We have full run of the villa, so if you want more privacy take your mattress to a corner and make it your own.

Sessions will be in English.

Free time can be spent in the nature reserve that backs onto the property, exploring local ruins, or wandering the border area. Or simply kick back and enjoy being in a traditional Jordanian home.

For those that wish to put their training into practice, we are planning an independent post-retreat overland trip to Damascus if the security situation allows. This is self-organised, and shared costs are split by the group. There's also the option to explore Jordan and the fabled ruins at Petra.


Based on the current roll out of vaccines, we anticipate international travel being more accessible by the end of this year.

As circumstances are changing daily, we are exploring all the options available to us. Please monitor the situation with COVID-19 including entry restrictions and quarantine measures. All attendees will require proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test. Furthermore, local travel requirements may require proof of vaccination in order to travel.

Please review our cancellation policy before booking. All attendees are required to sign a risk waiver. Reach out if you have any questions.


Jan Chipchase Through Studio D, Jan provides research, design and strategy services to clients with a global remit and has developed an extensive methodology to operate independently in challenging environments. 

Grant Rayner Grant has over 30 years of experience in security and crisis response. Through his consultancy Spartan9, he has spent the last 18 years working across Asia and the Middle East helping clients to solve complex problems in challenging environments. He is an advisor to Studio D and supports our expeditions in Afghanistan.

We hope to see you at Operating In Challenging Environments retreat.

—Jan & Grant


Terms & Conditions | Cancellation Policy

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