Has the pandemic really affected the drivers of change?

Has the pandemic really affected the drivers of change?

We and many others have reflected on possible scenarios for the post-pandemic future, often using a scenario cross methodology. We thought it would also be valuable to look at how some of our other futures thinking tools might help us think through the real implications.  So over the next few months we will be looking at how the Drivers of Change may have been affected and what that might tell us.

SAMI put together a set of 12 Drivers of Change back in April 2018. This series of blogposts gives us the chance to update these. But one could also look at how other organisations’ “Megatrends” may need to change – our research paper “Meta-megatrends” is a good start point for that.

This blogpost is a quick, subjective overview of some of the effects we might expect to see. We will also be producing more carefully researched perspectives on each driver, based on our ongoing horizon scanning.

SAMI’s 12 Drivers of Change: Pandemic effects

Growing world population, driven by increasing longevity, especially in Africa (and not by increasing numbers of babies being born); also an ageing population

·       ½ million dead worldwide so far; maybe 2 million by the end => minimal effect on total population

·       Disproportionate effect on older people – still not enough to be significant

·       Disproportionate effect on different ethnicities could yet have global impact

Multi-polar world:

Shifting global economic centre of gravity from West (and OECD) to East and South (especially Africa).

·       Disruption to global supply chains => re-shoring

·       China looking to exploit opportunities, but facing a backlash

·       Underlying economics unchanged

Economic Growth:

Increasing returns to capital at the expense of labour; growing inequality within countries. Regional and sectoral distribution of economic growth set to evolve with pace of growth uncertain.


·       Recession or Depression expected – range of “bounce back” forecasts.

·       Variable effects depending on extent of lock-down = UK, US, Brazil likely to be worst hit. .

Social Cohesion:

Deteriorating social cohesion leading to unrest until “third culture” becomes the norm.


·       Pandemic highlighted the extent of inequality, and a degree of solidarity, so creates potential for change
Climate and Environmental Change:

Climate change leading to even more extreme weather events, such as more hurricanes, higher sea levels, more floods and more droughts, acidified oceans, bleached corals, California fire and mud slides, Australian fire, etc.


·       Interim experiences of less pollution and fewer emissions welcomed

·       Many voices calling for green recovery  – unclear whether they will succeed

·       Climate crisis identified as next disaster

Energy Sources:

Energy sources are increasingly diversified and decentralised as energy mix shifts.


·       May accelerate deployment of renewables
Pervasiveness of IT/IoT:

plus blockchain/FS/data/smart infrastructure


·       Strong push for medical monitoring applications
Machine learning and 4.0, robots:

Increasing sophistication of machine learning and adaptive IT systems (face recognition, AI, robotics, cobots, AI journalists, automated trading, etc) – impact on jobs


·       AI applications: vaccines, track and trace

·       Blow to car-sharing models of Autonomous Vehicles


Emerging bio-age (personal medicine, manufacturing in fermentation vats, bio-engineered chemical production, biodata storage etc.).


·       Big boost to vaccine development using latest techniques

·       Preparations for next pandemic may work at a generic level


In Europe 1 million plus young immigrants a year from mostly Middle East and North Africa. Globally 21.5mn displaced yearly by natural disasters.


·       Migrant camps at high risk requiring new approaches; maybe dissuades new migrants

·       Global scope means little direct effect


Continuing shift of population from rural environments to city life.


·       Mega-cities, especially in the South, are high risk areas

·       Unlikely to significantly affect overall trend

Changes in personal values:

Personal aims and ambitions – how do the generations compare?

·       Different generational effects – young more likely to lose employment; elders more likely to isolate

·       Greater awareness of non-financial objectives

This is just a starter for 10. What do you think? Would you like to collaborate with our research? To contribute contact info@samiconsulting.co.uk.

Written by Huw Williams, SAMI Principal

The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily of SAMI Consulting.

SAMI Consulting was founded in 1989 by Shell and St Andrews University. They have undertaken scenario planning projects for a wide range of UK and international organisations. Their core skill is providing the link between futures research and strategy.

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