We must act collectively in times of conflict

type - features
category - society
The war in Ukraine is spotlighting humans’ innate collective behaviour and care in action – an approach that will be vital in a future when war, pandemics and climate disasters become ever-more likely

For companies that work in the realms of foresight and strategy – that is, analysing what is happening today to forecast and shape tomorrow – the war in Ukraine necessitates pause and reflection.

Unlike Covid-19 – a global collective experience that compelled collaboration and accelerated innovation – what is taking place right now requires us to think and act as humans, not as brands or businesses. It’s a humbling reminder of the world’s fragility, and with this, our interconnectedness with one another.

Through technology, we are witnessing the devastation and fear wrought upon Ukraine – but also the bravery and resilience of its people. We are watching and hearing about their experiences as each day passes, through self-shot reportage, unpolished podcasts, Twitter updates and even Instagram stories.

This connectivity is raising awareness; our devices and social media have become conduits for empathy. But they’re also fuelling action. What only a month ago were platforms for sharing memes and vignettes from our weekends are transforming into tools for driving organisation and support.

In Berlin, residents such as Harriet Shepherd, the editorial director of Indie Magazine, is using her Instagram reach and role in the city’s fashion and culture scene to help refugees get to, and settle into, the city. Along with a wider group of facilitators, she has organised everything from shared vehicles to drive to the Polish border to empty apartments for families, and even crowdsourced furniture and food.

While everyday items, such as clothing, blankets and food are being donated, fundraising has also tipped into hundreds of millions of pounds, emerging from grassroots initiatives that have assembled in days to global appeals supported by royalty.

Published by:

22 March 2022

Author: Martin Raymond and Christopher Sanderson

Image: Photography by CottonBro


Photography by CottonBro

Essentially, we’re seeing Neo-collectivism in action. Where it was once Civic Brands stepping in where governments were failing, now the responsibility has dispersed even further from institutions of authority. Harnessing the tools at their disposal, citizens are the ones stepping in and using their collective minds and bodies for good.

The human endeavour and collective action we are witnessing is also symbolic of the seven human needs, whether giving or receiving support. There is the need for purpose and to feel like our actions have meaning, and there is also the need for belonging, in which we find our place and trust among others who we see as allies. And, of course, there is the human need for security: protecting ourselves and our loved ones from physical, emotional and economic threats is a basic human survival instinct.

As brands, this means that the focus will shift from empty marketing messages of solidarity to the genuine facilitation of change. As Richard Edelman, CEO of global PR and consultancy firm Edelman, says: ‘This is a window into the future, with enhanced expectations of employees, consumers and investors motivating companies to act in a broader societal interest.’

‘Some 73% of Conservative voters in Britain now support resettling Ukrainian refugees in the UK, as do 87% of Labour voters.’
Photography by CottonBro

To support customers in their efforts, businesses will need to consider how their platforms, profits and products can be harnessed to help Ukrainians – or, for that matter, all refugees – in their time of need. Media companies, for example, could hand the microphone over to local, on-the-ground broadcasters, while human-powered networks such as Airbnb are making it easier than ever for hosts to turn their tourism properties – once a highly profitable revenue stream – into free shelter for those who are displaced. Already, more than 36,000 hosts have signed up in the US.

Indeed, a recent YouGov survey shows that 76% of Britons support introducing a scheme to resettle some Ukrainian refugees fleeing the invasion. Such care is even transcending political stances: some 73% of Conservative voters in Britain now support resettling Ukrainian refugees in the UK, as do 87% of Labour voters.

In this vein, The Future Laboratory is exploring how it can assist individuals who have been displaced as a result of this conflict. We will match all employee donations to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Ukraine, which exists to protect and assist refugees while combating racism and xenophobia. Our team members can use their Humanitarian Day benefit to join a peace protest or collect supplies and deliver them to a drop-off point. We are also exploring how we can use our annual internship scheme and Trends & Foresight Masterclasses to help with job opportunities for Ukrainian refugees in the future.

As a company, we have long espoused the importance of consumer-centricity – putting the consumer front and centre in commercial strategy, to better serve their needs and to drive long-term, sustainable and profitable growth. This is all very well under normal circumstances, but it still seeks to serve capital profit as the master.

People must come before profit – especially in times such as these. It’s time for us all to be more human-centred in our structures and solutions when thinking and acting as businesses and brands.


How can you help?

The Future Laboratory will continue to look at the areas inside our sphere of influence to support Ukraine as events continue to unfold. As a company, we will continue to assist individuals who have been displaced as a result of conflict, and as such will match all employee donations to UNHCR Ukraine.

If you too would like to find out more and make a donation to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Ukraine you can do so below.