Meet the Team

We are a mother-daughter team, Shirin and Leila, who are committed to thinking systemically and intergenerationally about the big issues of our time. We have identified the Corset Economy as just that – a lens with which to take a fresh look at not only the economy, but also every aspect of how we live, work, shop, interact with other people, technology and our environment. 

We have both spent our lives looking at change, from different ends of the telescope. Shirin has always been more theoretical, using her background and talents to put things together so the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Leila is more practical and better at communicating ideas, having spent much of her working life dealing with the harsh realities of life for the have-nots, primarily in Africa. 

Shirin Elahi

Shirin’s preoccupation is to explore uncertainty, the hidden ‘here be dragons’ that are often airbrushed out as inconvenient truths.

Shirin Elahi is a scenarios expert with more than 15 years of managing scenario projects for a range of multilateral, not-for-profit and private organisations including UN agencies and major corporations. She has explored the future of issues as diverse as the future of risk and society, work, home, mobility, global aviation, shipping and intellectual property. Shirin started her professional career as an architect and learned to apply that practical understanding of the creative process to build scenarios for the future as a tool for strategic change. The Corset Economy concept evolved from professional insights which enabled Shirin to observe the corseting phenomenon starting to materialise across different sectors. 

Leila Varley

Leila’s passion is to address complexity, to take the disparate, incomplete pieces of knowledge around us to better understand the bigger picture.

Leila is a practical strategist, with over a decade of experience working at the intersection of strategy, foresight and operations. Her career started in the international development sector where she designed and managed large scale multi-country programmes addressing complex and systemic problems across Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. She then moved into foresight, working on consultancy projects for academic, bilateral and corporate organisations on foresight engagements across diverse issues from the future of work to the future of wisdom. Her focus is on democratising futures thinking and making it accessible and practical for individuals and organisations who may otherwise not have access to it.

Our purpose

We started the Corset Economy to combat the unfairness we saw evolving around us. We were asking big questions about where is the world going? What does this mean for me? After we came up with some answers, we figured other people were probably asking the same thing and could really benefit from the insights we’d collected. The more people we reach, the more we can collectively come together and address the Corset Laces to influence the world we want to unfold and lessen the corseting.

Our Mission:

Giving you the insights to help you navigate your own future in a turbulent, uncertain Corset Economy

Our “Big Hairy Goal”: 

Creating a movement to loosen the corseting of our global economy and create a more sustainable and equitable future for all

In order to achieve these goals, systems thinking is essential. This requires an acknowledgement that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. It also requires constant curiosity about what the integral parts of the system are and their interconnections, which in turn affect the feedback loops that create the reinforcing or stabilising dynamics between them. When analysis takes place without a systems approach, it gets caught up in single-issue agendas and the ‘divide-and-rule’ game. Both are toxic. Both increase levels of corseting. 

Elahi, S. (2011) Here be dragons… exploring the ‘unknown unknowns’. Futures

Ramirez, R, Ravetz, J, Sharpe, B and L. Varley. (2019) We need to talk (more wisely) about wisdom: A set of conversations about wisdom, science, and futures. Futures.

For an excellent overview of systems thinking, refer to Meadows, DH; Wright, D (ed) (2008) Thinking in Systems: A Primer. Earthscan.