Humanitarian thought: opportunities for change

Essays from leading thinkers, politicians and change-makers

Communities of Humanitarian Thought

2020 was the British Red Cross’ 150th anniversary year. Planned as a celebration of kindness, it grew into a crisis that inspired humanitarian action on a scale nobody could have foreseen. The Red Cross supported 1.5 million people in need across the UK, and our partners and communities around the country and the world helped many more.

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the major challenges we all face, wherever we live. It has also given us the chance to learn and create a better future where no one is left behind.

Download icon Download our essay collection - Communities of Humanitarian Thought (PDF)

Our new essay collection

To build on this opportunity, we’re marking our anniversary year with a new essay collection.

Communities of humanitarian thought: The case for change in a time of crisis (PDF) brings together leading thinkers from different sectors.

Produced in partnership with Demos, each author outlines current challenges across urgent humanitarian issues and, crucially, the opportunities for policy change.

Together, they shape a vision for the future.

Watch the video of our launch event

Our Strategy 2030

The essays cover the three pillars of our Strategy 2030 where we can make a real difference - disasters and emergencies, health inequalities and displacement and migration. We also share personal stories from our staff and volunteers who shed light on the human connections that makes our work successful.

We want to make sure we support people before a crisis, to prevent it or make it easier to cope with. And after an emergency, we can work with communities to help people recover as quickly as possible.

Our work is about ensuring that people in different types of crisis have everything they need to recover, and that people aren’t left to deal with their problems on their own.
Seema Assadullah, service support worker at British Red Cross and author, essay introduction


Download icon Download our essay collection - Communities of Humanitarian Thought (PDF)

Learn more about the three core areas of our work

We help people in crisis in the UK and around the world.

We support people to stay healthy in their communities.

We support refugees across every stage of their asylum journey.

Communities of Humanitarian Thought - contents and contributing authors

Thought leaders from across the UK's humanitarian sectors contributed to Communities of Humanitarian Thought (PDF). We also feature essays from those on the front lines, including British Red Cross volunteers and our refugee ambassadors. 



  • To build back stronger after Covid-19, we need to put more trust in people and communities. By David Bernstein, Chair of trustees at the British Red Cross.

Download foreword


  • The work of the British Red Cross touches on many different areas of humanity. By Seema Assadullah, Service support worker at British Red Cross.

Download introduction

Chapter 1: Health inequalities

  • Our support is so valued by the people who receive it. By Blessed Okpeki, British Red Cross mobility aids volunteer. 


  • Building on the unexpected benefits of Covid-19: The power of local communities. By Rt Hon Patricia Hewitt, Independent Chair of Norfolk & Waveney Health and Care Partnership, and former Secretary of State for Health (2005-2007). 


  • A country where no one feels lonely or forgotten. By Kim Leadbeater MBE, Ambassador for The Jo Cox Foundation. 


  • The nation’s recovery efforts must include targeted, sustained and intensive mental health and emotional support for young people. By Ceylon Andi Hickman, Head of Impact and Female Participation at Football Beyond Borders. 


Chapter 2: Displacement and migration

  • Creating a society where people seeking asylum can truly say they have found refuge. By Godwin Akinyele, VOICES Network Ambassadors. 


  • Welcoming New Scots into society from the day they arrive. By Professor Alison Phipps, UNESCO Chair in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts, University of Glasgow.


Chapter 2: continued

  • Asylum is not a problem that needs to be fixed: We must acknowledge the huge contribution that refugees make to the UK. By Sabir Zazai, Chief executive at the Scottish Refugee Council.                           
  • Survivors of modern slavery need rights enshrined in law – to ensure people can build new futures and prevent re-trafficking. By Rt Hon Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (2010-16) and former Leader of the Opposition (2001-03).


Chapter 3: Disasters and emergencies. 

  • I hope the community spirit we’ve seen will continue as we recover from Covid-19. Robyn Wheeler, British Red Cross volunteer.
  • It is time to ensure Global Britain is a force for good. By Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP, Chair of Defence Select Committee.


  • Invest in African women as agents of change in the global movement to end FGM. Nimco Ali OBE, Co-Founder of The Five Foundation, The Global Partnership To End FGM. 


  • There is no denying: Prevention is better than cure: Youth and civil society as safeguards and drivers of climate action. By Nisreen Elsaim, Chair of the UN Secretary General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change. 



  • Calling for change in a time of crisis. Zoë Abrams, Executive director of communications, advocacy and strategy at British Red Cross. 


  • Now is the moment to secure the change we want to see in the world. Mike Adamson, Chief executive at British Red Cross.