Scenarios Week Round-Up

by , | Jun 12, 2020

Last month, we launch the #LongCrisisScenarios in partnership with the Local Trust. The four scenarios describe COVID-19 futures where the response is polarised or where collective action predominates, and where decision-making is centralised or distributed.

For the past week, we’ve been inviting contributors to share their perspectives on what a COVID-19 future might look like. From education to cities, from citizenship to future foreign secretaries, you’ll find all the articles below:

Four Scenarios and a Future for Communities

The Director of Partnerships at the Local Trust, James Goodman, kicked off the week by looking at how the scenarios help us understand the role that communities can play beyond COVID-19. The Local Trust knows that it will have to adapt its strategies to different futures. “If we move towards a fragmented and informal world… then community ownership of local assets, and skills of leadership, creativity and enterprise, become even more important… Alternatively… where the centralised state is dominant, building a broad-based coalition with national organisations to make the case for more power and control at a community level is key.”

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Winning Ugly: Five Lessons From Managing a School Shutdown

Fadi Yarak, the Director General of Education in the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE), and Victoria Collis look at how best to manage school closures against the background of an economic and migration crisis. “At one level, closing schools is simple. But instructing everyone to stay at home is just the start of a fast and unpredictable period of planning and decision making. These are our five rules for winning ugly during a complex emergency.”

1. Take time to understand people’s incentives
2. Make the most of what others can offer
3. Take decisions at the right pace
4. Take time to safeguard your plans
5. Don’t let the urgent crowd out the important

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2030: Which Path Will We Take?

It’s the end of 2029, and the Red Button Club imagines what the world looks like from two different points of view. Will we have a vaccine and radical green policies, or will we be living with increased security and losing our privacy? Will the SDGs be met, or will the UN be defunct? Will we be Winning Ugly, or will the Rise of the Oligarchs be in full flow? On the last day of the 2020s, two British Foreign Secretaries look back on a bad decade with worse to come, or a pandemic that pushed the world onto a new path.

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The Long Crisis Scenarios are a Call to Citizen Thinking

“A lifetime and a few weeks ago,” says Jon Alexander – of the New Citizenship Project. “I wrote that the great paradox of this moment is that our society is moving slower, yet at the same time changing faster and more fundamentally than it has for decades.” He explores the scenarios through the lens of the ‘Citizen Story’, where people see each other as active participants who can and want to shape society for the better – rather than as a selfish and individualistic Consumer, or a dependent and biddable Subject. These are times not for optimists who hope for the best or pessimists who expect the worst, for hopeful changemakers prepared to take on the messy and challenging work of building a new world.

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After COVID, Where Will We Be?

Local Trust hosted a webinar to explore the implications of the Long Crisis Scenarios for the future of communities. The Alternative UK presented their research findings from recent community work in Plymouth, where a group found itself “moving from the bottom right-hand corner of the quadrants up to the top right-hand corner – from Fragile Resilient towards Winning Ugly.” Becky Doran of Revoelution, a Big Local partnership, highlighted the challenges facing Blackpool, where Fragile Resilient resonated. People from deprived areas are used to living through a difficult scenario, she said, giving our communities a resilience that government has been surprised by.

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The Fall of the Big Men

We have a once in a multi-generation view of which global leadership styles we like, and which ones we don’t, according to Rachel Briggs. “A crisis offers the rare opportunity for a company’s stakeholders to see the leadership perform,” she says, with old school leaders performing poorly. “The winners are rising to the top – the losers are showing the limitations of their Big Men style. If only Jacinda Ardern could run for President…”

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Towards More Equal and Resilient Cities Post-COVID-19

There are bright spots of light for WRI’s Leo Horn Phathanothai, who wants cities to be at the heart of the COVID-19 response and recovery. Rather than becoming ghost towns, they can lead the way in showing that radical change to our everyday lives and systems is possible. “The moment is not for urban regression, it is ripe for urban transformation” he says. He calls for bold action by national governments to close the urban infrastructure gap and services divide, cities to be provided with the capacity to shape the policies and regulations that impact them, and the grassroots to play a much bigger role in driving urban renewal.

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You’ll find all the articles in this book, along with a video introduction to the Scenarios.


  • David Steven is a senior fellow at the UN Foundation and at New York University, where he founded the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children and the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies, a multi-stakeholder partnership to deliver the SDG targets for preventing all forms of violence, strengthening governance, and promoting justice and inclusion. He was lead author for the ministerial Task Force on Justice for All and senior external adviser for the UN-World Bank flagship study on prevention, Pathways for Peace. He is a former senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and co-author of The Risk Pivot: Great Powers, International Security, and the Energy Revolution (Brookings Institution Press, 2014). In 2001, he helped develop and launch the UK’s network of climate diplomats. David lives in and works from Pisa, Italy.

  • Alex Evans

    Alex Evans is founder of the Collective Psychology Project, which explores how we can use psychology to reduce political tribalism and polarisation, a senior fellow at New York University, and author of The Myth Gap: What Happens When Evidence and Arguments Aren’t Enough? (Penguin, 2017). He is a former Campaign Director of the 50 million member global citizen’s movement Avaaz, special adviser to two UK Cabinet Ministers, climate expert in the UN Secretary-General’s office, and was Research Director for the Business Commission on Sustainable Development. He was part of Ethiopia’s delegation to the Paris climate summit and has consulted for Oxfam, WWF UK, the UK Cabinet Office and US State Department. Alex lives with his wife and two children in Yorkshire.

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