UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction


IRDR Special Seminar: Planning from the Future: Humanitarian Action in a Transformative Age

13 October 2020, 5:00 pm–6:00 pm

Workers assessing risk

As the new academic year begins, we welcome Dr Randolph Kent to give this special seminar on humanitarian action in a transformative age. Current students and staff, graduates, alumni and members of the public are all warmly welcome to attend this event, the first of this year's monthly seminar series.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to

All | UCL staff | UCL students | UCL alumni


Sold out




Professor Peter Sammonds – UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction


Haldane Room
Wilkins Building
Gower Street,

Restricted in-person attendance

Please note that only current IRDR students that have booked a place via Moodle are able to attend this event in person. Due to Covid-19 social distancing rules, we can only accommodate students who have booked in advance. However, the event will be livestreamed on the IRDR YouTube channel and available to view at a later date.


Transformative change all too often occurs at the brink of chaos. Decision-makers, strategists, policy planners adjust for the evident, but all too rarely choose to explore the what might be’s – factors that have transformative consequences beyond the immediately obvious. This is certainly the case for what is generally referred to as ‘the humanitarian sector’ – those institutions and individuals who have roles and responsibilities for preventing, preparing for and responding to disasters and emergencies.

This special seminar, Planning from the Future: Humanitarian Action in a Transformative Age, will warn that the types, dimensions and dynamics of humanitarian crisis drivers are and will continue to change dramatically. Yet, the sorts of strategies, operational modalities and underlying assumptions that have defined humanitarian action to date are becoming less and less relevant to meet such challenges.

Dr Randolph Kent will identify what needs to be done to meet these new challenges and also warns that failure to anticipate and prepare for such challenges will have unprecedented and potentially existential consequences. The seminar will look at strategic and operational ways forward, as well as how failing to heed these lessons could well plunge millions of lives, social and economic systems and governance structures from the brink into chaos.

Due to current social distancing regulations, space at this event is limited to 15 and only current IRDR students will be able to attend in person (and must book their place via Moodle). However, the seminar will also be livestreamed on our YouTube channel (no booking required).

Please note this event will be filmed for promotional purposes and will be available on YouTube after the event.

About the speaker

Dr. Randolph Kent is a Visiting Professor at the African Leadership Centre at King’s College, London, and a Senior Associate Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute.  

At present, he is also a member of the OECD’s – Mobilising Science in Global Emergencies Scoping Group, and Chair of the Humanitarian Passport Initiative, Humanitarian Leadership Academy.

Prior to those appointments, he directed the Humanitarian Futures Programme at Kings College, London, where he and his staff worked from 2004 to 2016 with a wide range of multilateral, bilateral and non-governmental organisations to strengthen their strategic and planning capacities for dealing with longer-term disaster threats.

Dr. Kent accepted his post at King’s College, London, after completing his assignment as UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia in April 2003. Prior to his assignment in Somalia, he served as UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Kosovo [1999], UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Rwanda [1994–1995], Chief of the UN Emergency Unit in Sudan [1989–1991] and Chief of Emergency Prevention and Preparedness in Ethiopia [1987–1989].

Since leaving the United Nations much of Dr Kent’s attention has also been focused on projects dealing with organisational and systems behaviour. These interests have led to appointments on a range of governmental and non-governmental committees in Denmark, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. In the private sector, he had served on the policy committees of DHL Deutsche Post Sustainability Advisory Council and Deloitte’s Humanitarian Innovation Panel.