New communities and cities

Migration, urbanization, the youth bulge, ageing populations and, highly networked citizens are changing the make-up of society. How will National Societies engage with communities when the very nature of community is changing?
The make-up of our society is rapidly changing. Decades of technological advancement and global integration of trade have seen millions lifted out of poverty and a rapidly expanding middle class, especially in Asia. By 2020, a majority of the world’s population will live in middle-class or rich households for the first time ever, and by 2030, this number will exceed 5 billion people. However, the benefits of economic and technological change have not been equally shared and the pace of change has left political, regulatory and welfare systems unable to cope, fostering division and aggravating grievances. Since the Global Financial Crisis, the middle class has been hollowed out in many advanced and some emerging economies, with incomes stagnating or even declining.  Meanwhile, the richest 1% accumulated more wealth than the rest of the world put together. Alongside this backdrop is a growing number of migrants and displaced people that create more fluid, mobile and diverse communities with distinct, and sometime divergent, worldviews. Much of the population movement reinforces the trend of urbanization. As many as 1 in 3 people living in cities will be in informal settlements within the S2030 period and will experience significant deprivation, particularly in Africa where this growth is projected to be the most pronounced and the most severe. For many National Societies, the defining issue of their relevance will be in how well they engage with and support the needs of those communities living in urban informal settlements.
The complex confluences of diverse issues including increasing migration (forced and voluntary), social and physical mobility, the inexorable growth and complexity of cities, the youth bulge in developing countries and an ageing population in developed and middle-income countries, the evolution of online tools and connectivity – are fast changing the fabric of societies and driving the (trans)formation of communities. Threaded through these complex changes, individuals are engaging with each other and with institutions differently, creating spaces for emergent community groups as well as virtual ones. A democratization of voice from previously marginalised or minority groups and a need for self-identity, agency and presence in decision-making are conflicting with traditional, mainstream ideologies and established political order. The impacts of these changes are being seen every day across a range of issues – be it raised awareness on LGBTQI, gender relations, race relations and youth voice issues amongst others. In many pockets, civil society is pushing back against the status quo, refusing to be spoken for and demanding change from both governments and institutions. How we think about the make-up of communities, and the assumptions that underpin this, is being challenged in this shifting landscape.

Considerations and tension points for the Red Cross and Red Crescent

  • Are National Societies reflective of the diversity of the contemporary societies they live in? How do we ensure that our programs are representative of all different groups?
  • How will National Societies engage with communities when the very nature of community is changing? How will we strengthen our engagement and mobilisation with communities connected through digital technologies, that are flatter, more dynamic and distributed networks?
  • How do we engage with increasingly fluid and internationally mobile/connected communities while our structures favour national fortressing, and struggle with disconnection, rigidity and lacking data and operational integration?

What are the possibilities?

The RCRC brand, if trusted and consistent across borders, could allow for seamless engagement with mobile communities.  New technologies could ensure more integration of data and effort transnationally. For instance, a migrant passing through a number of countries on their way to their destination should have their information and needs integrated across our systems, so they do not have to re-tell their story at every stage and can have their personalised needs addressed. The RCRC is strongly integrated into communities and can use this to adapt to and build on efforts to engage with new communities. Amendments to our structures and approaches will be necessary, but if there is enough leadership commitment this can be achieved.

What are your thoughts? Are there other elements to this trend that we should be considering?

How do you think it will affect vulnerability and the Red Cross and Red Crescent?

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1 Comment

  1. Michael Myers

    “When contraception use increases, states can have higher levels of economic growth, become less dependent on foreign aid, see more girls continue their education, become more stable and secure, and have less gender inequality.” (Marie Stopes Int.)

    Empowerment of women is a cross-cutting and fundamental imperative. It touches directly on most of the trends identified, and indirectly on the others.
    The vital pre-requisite is for women to control their own reproductive health, including timing and number of pregnancies.
    This is widely known, but organizations seem reluctant to speak to it directly.
    Lack of access to contraception results in tens of millions of unsafe abortions annually, and over 30,000 deaths (long term disability and illness for millions more).
    214 million women currently want to use contraception but cannot.
    The Red Cross/Red Crescent should give due attention to this topic in S2030, and consider how its network can make a difference.



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