This story was first published in December 2020, for Forum for the Future — Futures Centre. It is republished here in its entirety.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Earlier this year, just as the pandemic began and we were all processing the feelings of shock and disbelief, I wrote a piece on Medium furiously, in anger — at the state of the world that resulted in such a breakdown of our social and institutional structures as the pandemic ravaged us all. …


“A more beautiful world shimmers just beneath the surface, bobbing up whenever the systems that hold it underwater loosen their grip.” Charles Eisenstein

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I write this as someone that’s worked in humanitarian and development aid for almost two decades. I write with great love for the work of my sector but also with great anger, shame and anxiety.

One of the most heartbreaking truths of today is the amplification of how our commons have fundamentally and irrevocably shifted. We know now that we can’t build back to what it was before. The global pandemic has shown up in harsh light…


Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

This is just a short note — more as a place holder for myself more than anything. But thought I would put it on here as I might add more to this as I go — and of course, welcome thoughts/additions from others.

In times of anxiety, I say this with love. There are a LOT of initiatives at the moment around social reimagining: the opportunities our current times provide us to strengthen care in and amongst us, to care for those that are vulnerable. …


Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

How do we talk about the future in vulnerable contexts? When people are juggling crippling poverty or feel unsafe? How about in contexts where young people do not necessarily feel that they have full agency over their own destiny. Where family, culture, religion might play a greater role in how their lives might develop? What about spaces where indigenous culture and history was overtaken by capitalist labour markers of progress — which visions of the future ought to prevail? Why then do we keep using dominant normative frameworks? …


Current humanitarian and development practices are built on decades of research, partnerships, policy development, and operational implementation. These origins have shaped the dominant view of about the aid sector. As we are increasingly aware now, these past dominant views are not fit for our collective future.

Throughout history, progress has hinged on pivotal moments of significant change. In this vein, the last few years have seen countless calls to transform the international humanitarian framework so that past hegemonies don’t dictate future states.


If we are truly to be fit for the future, it is not enough to merely look at internal organizational structures, processes and policies. The question of being future fit is also about whether we are fit to serve communities of the future. Are we going to be able to deliver the types of programs and services that future societies — whether in instances of deprivation, vulnerability, or in stages of strength and agency, will desire? Will what we have to offer, the way we work, compliment and meet future citizen’s needs, desires and the way they lead their lives…

Aarathi Krishnan

Humanitarian Futures and Strategic Foresight Advisor. Interested in cultural, indigenous, feminist & decolonising futures. All views my own

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