Imagining a Post-COVID UN

How can we apply foresight to support organizational adaptation, resilience and transformation?

UNGP Finland for Internal UN Cross-Pillar Learning, in cooperation with IBM Watson, Miltton Creative Agency


Three future scenarios were developed to illustrate what the post-COVID world might look like. Discussion around scenarios teased out the potential implications on the UN system and inspired a brainstorm of actions to mitigate future risks cutting across UN pillars. As a result of the exercise, awareness of emerging issues and the utility of foresight increased. Moreover, a set of questions was developed to interrogate current preparedness strategies and policies and imagine how they would perform under alternative future scenarios. Finally, commitment to collective anticipatory action cutting across all UN pillars was highlighted to build the UN system’s resilience and ability to lead the international community through the various post-COVID futures.


The pandemic has served as a wake-up call, underscoring the need to take action to build resilient and adaptive organizations and ensure preparedness for future shocks. Organizational planning, strategies and policies need to be developed with a long-term view, incorporating a broad spectrum of plausible scenarios to challenge assumptions and uncover blind spots.

Key lessons

  • Consideration of long- and medium-term future scenarios is a good way to “future proof” organizational strategies and test existing strategic plans.
  • Negative scenarios can be extremely valuable to deter complacency and analyse how well existing policies would hold up.
  • Experimentation and demonstrations are excellent tools for introducing new approaches and methodologies that support organizational change.

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