Explore how to set up a successful business in a conflict-affected region using red team exercises to stress-test your plans.

Afternoon Market In Herat, Afghanistan.
  • Duration

    3 weeks
  • Weekly study

    5 hours
  • 100% online

    How it works
  • Included in an ExpertTrack

    Course 3 of 4
  • Get full ExpertTrack access

    $39/monthFind out more

Develop the skills to plan for business success in conflict zones

In many conflict-affected parts of the world, there’s an enormous amount of untapped business potential. But with unpredictable and dangerous environments, business investments are often deterred, meaning communities lose out and the economic drivers of conflict can be exacerbated.

On this three-week course presented by Dr Aisha Ahmad, you’ll develop the tools to make sense of the challenges and opportunities of doing business in a conflict-affected part of the world, gaining practical insights on how to plan for success.

Discover how conflict can affect informal economies

To understand how business works in countries affected by violent conflict, you first need to place these economies in their appropriate social and historical context.

The first week of this course will allow you to explore the idea of a civil war economy. With an ‘on the ground’ view, you’ll learn how to work safely and effectively in these hostile business environments.

Examine the challenges of investing in a conflict zone

In countries with high levels of corruption, not only can state bureaucracy be frustrating, but you also need to consider the relationships communities have with the state and its rules.

You’ll look at the challenges and opportunities of investing in a new business venture in a conflict zone. Through this, you’ll see how a business venture can affect, transform, and contribute to the existing ecosystem of the conflict zone.

Stress test your business plans through red teaming

In the final week, you’ll learn about red team exercises, recreating some of their key elements to stress test your business plans.

By the end of this course, you’ll have the skills to spot vulnerabilities in business plans for conflict zones and discuss how you can adapt to mitigate some of the risks.


  • Week 1

    Economies beyond states

    • Welcome

      We start this learning journey with an introductory look at the relationship between informal economies and civil war economies, and then delve into the question of how NSAGs finance their war efforts.

    • Informal Economies

      In this activity, we explore the relationship between state weakness and informal economies, and the challenges that weak states face in forming a taxation-protection relationship with their citizens.

    • Conflict Economies

      In this activity, we turn our attention to civil war economies, and explore how non-state armed groups finance their wars, and how different revenue streams affects their behaviour.

    • Wartime Market Analysis

      In this activity, we’ll use a practical scenario to explore the difficulties businesses face when moving goods through territories held by NSAGs, and will brainstorm solutions to those challenges.

    • From theory to practice

      In this activity, you’ll put all of the concepts we covered this week into practice, using this peer-graded activity to demonstrate your learning.

    • Weekly Wrap-up

      This week we explored some of the challenges of doing business in conflict zones, such as moving goods through NSAG-held territory. Let’s recap what we’ve covered.

  • Week 2

    Navigating Corruption and Conflict

    • Welcome

      This week we’ll look at the relationship between corruption and conflict, and examine how corruption in a conflict zone can present additional costs and risks for businesses.

    • Corruption and Red Tape

      In this activity, we will examine the relationship between corruption and conflict, and will use a practical scenario to brainstorm how businesses can surmount these frustrating obstacles.

    • Setting up shop

      In this activity, we will examine the challenge of community pushback against an approved business venture, and will brainstorm possible solutions to mitigate those risks.

    • Do No Harm Principles

      In this activity, we will address some of the ways that businesses can inadvertently worsen conflict, and will explore how corporate social responsibility can help mitigate grievances and improve security of the venture.

    • Weekly Wrap-up

      This week we explored the different challenges that governments in conflict zones can create for businesses. Let’s recap what we covered.

  • Week 3

    Stress Tests For Success

    • Welcome

      This week we will practice using a tool called “red teaming” to assess the risks of doing business in a conflict zone. We’ll also return to our Mali case study, so that you can leverage all your knowledge about that case.

    • ‘Red Team’ Exercises

      In this activity, you’ll learn what a “red team exercise” is and how a version of this tool can help in your planning process. To practice, you’ll review a fictitious “blue team” scenario, and get ready to “red team” it.

    • Applying an Alt-Lens

      In this activity, your task will be to take on the “red team” role, and present an attack plan to exploit any mistakes, vulnerabilities, weaknesses, blunders, and oversights the blue team might have made.

    • Debrief and Plan For Success

      In this activity, you’ll assess how your red team attack strategy revealed vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the blue team plan. You’ll also have the chance to think creatively about how to mitigate those vulnerabilities.

    • Wrap-Up

      This week we practiced stress testing a business plan by using a modified version of “red teaming”. Let’s recap what we learned this week.

Prove you're job ready

Highlight the new, job-relevant skills you’ve gained and supplement existing qualifications with a hard-earned, industry-specific digital certificate – plus one for every course within your ExpertTrack.

  • Learn the latest in your chosen industry or subject.
  • Complete each course and pass assessments.
  • Receive certificates validated by the educating organisation.
  • Impress employers with learning outcomes you can add to your CV.
  • Make your career dreams a reality.

Download a PDF

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Recognize the risks and calculate the costs involved in launching a business venture in an active conflict zone.
  • Critically assess how a business venture might inadvertently affect, transform, and contribute to conflict dynamics on the ground.
  • Develop creative problem-solving skills to adapt to challenges facing businesses in conflict zones.
  • Practice “stress testing” a business plan before implementation, using a modified version of a tool called a “red team” exercise.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone working or volunteering for an organisation engaged in a conflict-affected environment.

It will also be useful if you’re studying a related subject such as political science, public policy, or international business studies.

Who will you learn with?

I'm an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto, specializing in International Security. I research civil war economies and jihadist insurgencies around the world.

Who developed the course?


FutureLearn is a leading social learning platform and has been providing high quality online courses for learners around the world over the last ten years.

About this ExpertTrack

Learn how to best approach working in a complex conflict zone, with International Security expert Dr Aisha Ahmad.

Start learning today - free 7-day trial

After your free trial you can:

  • Pay $39 per month to keep learning online
  • Have complete control over your subscription; you can cancel any time
  • Work at your own pace and set your own deadlines at every stage
  • Only pay while you’re learning; the subscription will cancel automatically when you finish
  • Complete online assessments to test your knowledge and prove your skills
  • Earn digital course certificates and a final award that you can share online, with potential employers, and your professional network
  • Keep access to the content of courses you complete even after your subscription ends

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

Want to know more about learning on FutureLearn? Using FutureLearn

Do you know someone who'd love this course? Tell them about it...