From post-Brexit to post-Covid: what scenarios for the future?

4 min readMay 8, 2020

In a recent post, I shared how local government was at a cross roads in how it evolves in the future and Covid 19 has accelerated its need to rethink what its role is. At the start of the year, I thought it would be a good idea to understand what we can learn from social trends:

I shared four different types of citizen:

Looking back at these, we do have people who are collaborating in networked ways to support each other in the pandemic through mutual aid groups, we do have people who feel self sufficient and can self-isolate economically from the situation, we do have people who want specific services personalised to them that avoid them having to come into contact with others and we have got people who are either shielded or have become vulnerable as a result of the crisis. How will these groups evolve as we move into the “slow burn” of the next phase?

I also imagined what 2020 would be like for councils. Some of those predictions did come to life, but not in the way I imagined, but I wonder whether these principles I thought councils should adopt as we transitioned into a post-Brexit world still hold or whether they should be rethought as we entered a post…Covid world

  • Move from fixing to shaping markets
  • Move from designing services to building movements for transition
  • Develop local places as platforms
  • Mobilise people’s collective intelligence for collective action
  • Root everything we do in tackling root causes of inequality & division

I segmented the types of councils we could find in the future pre-Covid, but we do find these to some extent during Covid 19. From A&E Zones which can only focus on the most vulnerable (shielding), to Local Federations who are sharing & mutualising common resources (PPE) to Communities in Control who are creating their own mechanisms of solidarity (mutual aid groups) to Neighbourhood Platforms where the leaders of place are creating platforms for institutions, businesses & communities to develop solutions together (provision of food).

The Grey Briefing has provided similar trends analysis on what scenarios may emerge from Covid 19, based on how much the state wields its power and who benefits.

As much as I like looking into the future, we do learn as much from the past in thinking how we thought the future would be…played out. In a previous post, I looked at what life was like 10 years ago and what I’d retain from then:

  • The playfulness & experimentation of people navigating new trends for the first time and testing out how it could be used for good and creating spaces & communities for people to take risks together
  • The resilience & militant optimism of people working in & with public services who despite chastised for being dispensable bureaucrats, put even more energy into creating new ways to support people to survive & thrive
  • The professional promiscuity of people collaborating across sectors, inventing new roles like social reporters, creating new types of organisation like social startups (like FutureGov, Think Public & Participle)

It also reminded me of a session on the London Leadership Programme I had with Barry Quirk who shared the need to look at longer horizons

At the time, we had the financial crisis, so can we still build on those principles with an even bigger crisis?

  • What scenarios do you envisage for the future?
  • How are you using scenario planning in this crisis?
  • How could we use scenario planning to help prepare for how we move from the emergency response to the slow burn of renewal?




Head of Policy Design, Scrutiny & Partnerships @newhamlondon #localgov Co-founder of #systemschange & #servicedesign progs. inspired by @cescaalbanese