Future Ready Webinar - What Happened and How Do You Use It?

ARTICLE | Feb 9, 2016

On September 17th, the Alliance hosted Future Ready, a webinar about some of the most important trends that our Next Big Things report identified as forthcoming, if not already present, challenges for local governments to deal with over the next 20 years. Alliance President Karen Thoreson and Resident Futurist Rebecca Ryan gave a presentation that went in depth about a few of these future trends. They then discussed a method for listeners of the webinar to take the trends they identified and have them rank and order the trends based on importance and likeliness.

The webinar began with the presenters taking the listeners back to 1995 and reviewing the different technologies, businesses and different aspects of culture that were present at the time. From there, the presenters discussed how communities should ‘see the future’ by maximizing potential, preparing for challenges and mitigating disruption and expenses. The presenters also discussed the 40-30-20 rule which found that only 2.5% of executives of major companies at the time were truly thinking 5 years or more into the future with the direction of their company.

Following this discussion, the presenters turned their attention to some important future trends to look for in local government. The presenters stated that there were 8 different categories with 44 different trends, but presented the most important categories which they described as the ‘Four forces’. The four forces included resources, technology, demographics and governance. Within the four forces, the most important trends they identified were energy grid disruption, water shortages, sharing economies, education reform, structural unemployment in the youth, elder expense, trust in government and corporate influence.

After the presentation on the different trends, the presenters turned to the resources the Alliance for Innovation had provided to the listeners to help identify the most important trends in their communities. Listeners were provided card decks with the different trends, along with a graph that listed importance and likeliness of those trends to occur in the listeners’ communities. When the presenters finished describing the chart and how to operate it, they went on to discuss how important preparing the for the future is and cited examples of companies, such as Kodak and Blockbuster, who didn’t plan for the future and were forced into bankruptcy as a result of a lack of foresight. The presenters finished with a quote from former Secretary of State Madeline Albright that stated: “We can be the audience and watch the world unfold, we can be the actors playing the roles assigned to us, or we can be the authors and write the future narrative.”

Below are links to additional readings that provide content similar to the Alliance’s future trends. The first is from Govtech and it describes some of the driving trends of human services and how they will affect public policy and the local level in the future. The second is from the Brookings Institution and it discusses all of the various future challenges local governments will face such as food supplies, water, technology and demographic changes. We hope that these tools help you think beyond what was introduced in the webinar and apply some of the concepts within your own organization.

So what can you take away? Primarily, it is important to realize the different thoughts and conversations you and other government leaders will need to have with citizens about the shared future challenges communities face. Do these challenges pose serious threats or provide opportunities for benefits?

If you missed Future Ready, you can visit the OnDemand store to find the stream. Also, we want you to Act on the Next Big Things and let us know what is important in YOUR communities. Will you let us know? If you need, revisit the report or the premium version (free for Members / $149 for Non-Members).

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