It’s difficult to look at the Middle East and consider its future optimistically. Much of the analysis of the region centers on crisis and collapse. There is plenty of both, fueled by wars and civil conflicts, poverty, extremism, and more. Given the human toll, focusing on all this is natural. It is also necessary if solutions to deeply rooted problems are ever to be developed, leading to a better future.A related risk is becoming blinded to “weak signals” — early indicators of what could become features of potential alternative futures. Weak signals are developments that are emerging outside the dominant norms and trends of today. In the Middle East, probably the most dominant norm is the inability of governments throughout the region to provide security and prosperity for their citizens. The COVID-19 pandemic is making this even more apparent, and markedly worse. It is not just the obvious failed states — as Steven Cook recently observed, “sometimes state failure is a more chronic condition.” But in the midst of this — and fueled by it — there is evidence of activities at the local level to create what is missing. Could these be signals of a future different than the one it is so easy to expect for the region?