SCG's Back to the Future blog series is a collection of conversations with philanthropic leaders exploring the key trends that shape the contours of the future. This series aims to expand our thinking on various issue areas and provide funders with the insights necessary to maximize their impact.
In the early 20th century, futurists were inspired by speed, technology, and modernity to create an avant-garde art movement. Today, shifting demographics and cutting-edge technologies are changing the world faster than ever. These developments have prompted the private sector to adopt foresight as a strategy to analyze trends and determine what is possible, preferable, and probable in the future. Nonprofits and social movements have also begun to adjust their work to meet the challenges of coming societal and environmental transformations.
In 2019, it was philanthropy’s turn. This year, our team at Southern California Grantmakers selected futurism to be the heart of our 2019 Annual Conference, Foresight Philanthropy. By asking our network to cast their eyes forward, we could focus on adapting to emerging trends and co-create a future that was equitable to all people. With the tools of futurism, we knew funders could sharpen their grantmaking strategies, invigorate cross-sector collaborations, and prepare to be more dynamic changemakers. In the following months, we continued these conversations and efforts by inviting philanthropic leaders to discuss the future of critical issues areas in our Back to the Future blog series.
One of our primary inspirations for the conference’s future-focused theme was Trista Harris, President of FutureGood and cutting-edge philanthropic futurist. Trista has spearheaded the efforts to make the often confusing and complicated tools of futurism accessible to the field of philanthropy. At Foresight Philanthropy, Trista enlightened our audience with “The Future Started Yesterday,” a plenary focused on using the tools of foresight to prepare for the challenges that will impact our grantees and communities.
Every year, Trista Harris and her team of researchers at FutureGood curate a list of trends that will impact foundations and nonprofits in the coming months. SCG is thrilled to share their 2020 predictions as the concluding piece of our “Back to the Future” blog series.
Funders help defend democracy.
As we see the United States become more divided and instability grows abroad, foundations will invest more resources into strengthening democracy. To support these efforts, foundations will create spaces for communities to solve complex issues collectively, reinvigorate our civics curriculums in schools, and ensure the safety of elections locally and globally. We will see networks like Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement become key places where funders connect about these issues.
Institutions examine their impact on the environment.
As the climate crisis worsens, foundations will critically examine how their institutions are impacting the environment. We will see foundations begin to divest from fossil fuels, add solar panels to their buildings, encourage remote work, replace in-person meetings with webinars, and pay for carbon credits when their staff travel.
Universal Basic Income on the map.
With artificial intelligence and robotics’ emerging impact on our labor force, our financial models will have to change. Universal Basic Income will set a floor for everyone, whether they are working or not. This amount is usually $12,000 a year, and companies and higher-income people are taxed to cover this amount. Foundations will be on the cutting edge of testing this idea for scale.
Workplaces support staff during times of rapid transformation.
Foundations will begin to think more deeply about employee wellness. The old paradigm that “doing good” in the social sector will shield you from work stresses will no longer be enough. Foundations will become frontline actors in a whole scale transformation of society by investing in team member wellness programs, offering more options for remote work, adding more vacation days, and improving their organizational cultures.
A 2019 study published in Science found that an algorithm widely used by US hospitals to determine how to allocate care for more than 200 million patients was less likely to refer black people than white people to programs that improve care for patients with complex medical needs. We are just beginning to understand how algorithms are expanding disparities. Foundations will start to take an active role in finding solutions to this growing problem.
Foundations become more digitally savvy.
Foundations will begin to add Chief Digital Officers (CDO’s) tasked with leading digital engagement efforts, maximizing the efficiency of grants management systems, financial systems, and relationship management databases. These CDOs will hire staff and consultants with expertise in automation to limit the amount of time staff spends on repetitive duties like checking nonprofit status, updating databases, and managing reporting. Instead, they will use that time to deepen relationships in the community. Foundations (and nonprofits) that don’t invest in staff in this area will be disrupted externally or internally by a new generation of self-automators.