GHC Conversation 2012 Scenarios

Scenario C: SHIFTING SANDS In this scenario, we worked to envision an environment of limited, disjointed, shallow, gap-filling, Band-Aid approaches to social issues where tight limits, siloed, and traditional approaches to philanthropy continue to dominate. The following graphic (produced by Ken Hubbell) and narrative description begin to tell a story of our images of possibility in this scenario.

A singular economic tsunami or a series of smaller economic disturbances (war, Avian flu, Citizens United Pt. 2) keeps the U.S. and much of North America in a weakened state until the mid-2020s. For many, a widely shared malaise and anxiety (perhaps encompassing an entire generation who has been born into an era of felt-uncertainty and high anxiety) will extend the need for human services at unprecedented levels. However, governments reduce funding for human services and organizations who had been dependent upon government funding become more fragile. Some previously high profile and large institutions in the social sector will fail to adapt and will disappear. This scenario is characterized as a long slog, with many hunkering down for survival, fearing a total collapse. Rampant loss of trust and a short term view fosters a fearful myopia that creates a conducive environment for unethical but charismatic leaders and Tea Party-like movements.

Our dominant value of competitive consumerism lives on at the expense of environmental protection. Despite pervasive product promotion of all things green and environmentally friendly, the majority values the environment only to the extent that it poses no personal conflicts, thereby compounding the issues and challenges which become even more problematic.

Expect a continued acceleration and broad dispersion of communication technology at comparatively affordable prices. Despite this, there is a continued value on personal, real-time connection with people. Personal privacy is significantly compromised, recognizing that all our online data footprints are stored and, potentially, searchable by others. Higher education will experience the bigger reinvention, as technology democratizes learning at a time when economic compression calls for alternatives to the traditional public and private college.

Mega-regions and larger cities will grow. People will live longer—but only those with good health care coverage and the resources to access it. Otherwise, many will have shorter life expectancies by 2030. Boomers will continue to play leadership roles, but in part time, advisory, less authoritative ways. Gen Xers and Millennials will continue to be self-absorbed and me-focused, leaving elder Boomers to face the reality that they must be self- and co-dependent, as they will have little support from younger generations.

We will drift further away from mainline churches and organized religion, yet witness a widespread searching for some spiritual dimension of life. We’ll see a few radicalized religious groups, leading to more social dangers for us all.  Public trust in mainstream media outlets will all but disappear, replaced by infinite “channels/outlets” that align with personal points of view. Civil discourse to solve problems has been replaced by polarization and mean-spirited behavior. People are more willing to challenge organizations/institutions, adding to the pressure on individuals and organizations to be perpetually authentic.

Philanthropy’s future is largely a reaction to economic limits and disturbances forcing the collapse of each sector to “the few” surviving organizations—largely for purposes of efficiency and practical survival. The clash that is produced results from the individual’s loss of trust in charitable organizations.  The tax revolt results in shrinkage of the charitable tax exempt status. Business decisions that result in the creation/combination of non-profit mega-organizations will unintentionally erode the case for big organization philanthropy. While the amount of funds given will remain stable, the local, personally known, smaller NGO will be the beneficiary of that redistributed giving. Grass roots giving will grow, largely responding to a pervasive sense of urgency and Band-Aid approaches. Individual fundraising professionals will constantly have to battle donor fatigue.

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