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When you operate in a geopolitical flashpoint and it feels like “anything” can happen next, how can you plan ahead with any accuracy? Bespoke scenarios which are unique to your organisation can bring the possibilities to life, says head of advisory Cvete Koneska.

Running a large event across multiple venues in a volatile political climate can be challenging at the best of times, with the safety of participants and spectators at stake.

But the potential risk seemed to be heightened for our client, an organisation that is planning a major festival attracting a global audience in Peru in 2024. Since the arrest of then-President Pedro Castillo on 7 December 2022, the country has been beset by civil unrest, from peaceful protests to violent demonstrations that have caused civilian deaths. 

Would it be safe to go ahead with the event in more than a year’s time – and would some locations be riskier than others? What was the probability that the protests would still be ongoing, and how disruptive might they prove to the festival? 

There are many ways in which circumstances could unfold and many possible consequences for the event. But only some of those scenarios are realistic and important to our client.

In order to plan ahead effectively, the organisation needed to be able to isolate the outcomes that matter to them.

What is the most efficient and accurate way for this to be done?  

Unique risks require a bespoke approach

As a SIAS subscriber, you’ll already be familiar with the scenarios produced by our analysts. They have become an increasingly popular format for corporate security teams, particularly over the past two years.

We develop scenarios to forecast how key flashpoints might develop and bring the possibilities to life, detailing the implications that companies need to take into account. Our scenarios are based on a methodological assessment of the key actors’ intent and capabilities. And they use probabilistic terms so you can immediately see how likely it is that each scenario will come to pass. 

For example, our three scenarios for Korea in 2023 ranged from a short-term crisis (likely), which would hinder local business operations and travel, to a full-scale military conflict (unlikely), which would require immediate evacuation of staff.

In a time of unprecedented risks and rapid change, however, many organisations are requesting bespoke scenarios to give them a more customised view of the risks and implications for their specific situation. This is necessary because, even when you operate in the same geopolitical conditions as another organisation, the potential risks and consequences you face can be highly individual.

So, like their generic counterparts, bespoke scenarios look at how a specific geopolitical flashpoint might develop. But they are based on a set of assumptions that are unique to your own organisation and take into account your own business model, goals and strategies. 

For example, we might incorporate your plans to expand operations in a particular region, or to move into a new sector or offerings, into our model – looking at how geopolitical circumstances might impact those. Or if your organisation’s assumptions include inflation not exceeding 10% in the next financial year or the price of oil remaining above $70 per barrel, we can include those too.

These assumptions inform the risk variables we consider. And in turn, this allows us to model a range of scenarios that are uniquely relevant to your organisation. You’ll get sight of the most probable scenarios you may face – or other potential outcomes you need for planning purposes, such as worst-case scenarios – and their unique impact on your company. 

Cut through the noise and focus on the issues that matter

Bespoke scenarios are designed to be integrated into a broader analysis of your risk landscape. Because they are not dry data points but detail-rich portraits of possible futures, they allow you to visualise the specific implications of each outcome for your organisation with unparalleled clarity, and plan accordingly.

They can fulfil the same function for board members who want to engage more deeply on strategic geopolitical and security issues. Your senior stakeholders will find it easier to consider specific, forward-looking intelligence scenarios than hazy warnings. Meanwhile, you will find it easier to focus their attention on the scenarios that really matter to your organisation rather than on scenarios that may be highlighted in the press but are insignificant to you.

Highlighting the most relevant risks relieves you of an almost impossible task. That is, making sense of an avalanche of information, alerts and news items and turning them into an ordered and comprehensive picture of the risk environment in which you’re operating. 

It’s a highly structured approach to evaluating risks, which removes bias and creates a robust framework for well-informed decision-making – helping you to effectively protect your people, your customers, your assets and your reputation.

How Dragonfly creates the insights your organisation needs

But even when you recognise the value of bespoke scenarios, it may be challenging to produce them in-house given limited resources and capacity.

That’s where Dragonfly’s advisory service can help.

Our team of specialists can produce bespoke scenarios for your organisation, addressing regions or countries about which you are concerned. 

We work closely with you to gain an in-depth view of your company, your concerns, your priorities and your plans, so that the insights we prepare for you are relevant and high-value.

We draw on the deep regional and geopolitical expertise of the specialists you are familiar with from SIAS. They consider the key actors’ capabilities as well as intent, so that the scenarios we outline are always plausible.

And not only do we provide scenarios, but you receive indicators as well, that signpost whether each one of those scenarios is materialising.

You can use these indicators over subsequent months to cut through the noise, immediately interpret the significance (or insignificance) of events and explain the implications to your board with confidence. And senior decision-makers can again use them to deepen their understanding of complex geopolitical developments and be more confident in their response.

Case study: Planning for a major sporting event in a volatile environment

So how did bespoke scenarios and indicators help our client plan a global festival in Peru?

The organisation approached us more than a year before the event to get help mapping out the most likely scenarios it might face given the political unrest in the country. It was also looking for signposts that one of these scenarios is underway, and a deeper understanding of the potential implications for its event. 

The risks it needed to explore included:

  • If there was a widespread uprising against the government around the time of the event, would it be more likely to start in the capital, or in more remote areas?
  • How might protestors move around the country?
  • Would airports and borders close and prevent the movement of people?
  • If airports were open, would spectators and participants still choose to come?
  • Could Peru’s security forces be relied on to keep people at the events safe in the case of protests or rioting?
  • Would sponsors pull out if there was a military coup?

The bespoke scenarios and indicators Dragonfly developed gave the client the opportunity to understand the most likely course of events and the resulting consequences – as well as some outlier scenarios which were nevertheless plausible. We outlined the likely timeline for continued protests, their likely geographical spread nationally and across key locations, as well as the triggers and indicators for growing political instability and escalating unrest over the coming year. 

This allowed their security team to initiate a conversation with senior decision-makers about how they would respond should some of the more alarming scenarios come to pass; for example, would they postpone or cancel the event? 

With a narrow set of concrete scenarios to discuss rather than a multitude of hazy possibilities, the planning process has been more focused and effective. The security team has been able to plan far ahead of time, rather than being forced to react at short notice to events as conditions changed. And by proactively helping the organisation mitigate the risks it faces hosting such a significant event, the security team has taken on a more strategic role – and elevated its position within the organisation.

To find out more about how our advisory team can create bespoke scenarios for your organisation, please get in touch with our specialists today.

Cvete Koneska is head of Dragonfly’s advisory service.