Who is thinking about the future of charities and civil society?
A quick rundown of some of the latest futures reports to help you think about what next for your organisation
Who is currently writing and thinking about the future of charities or wider civil society? And what reports or resources are out there that might help us to separate the signals from noise? Here are some of the things I've found.
What the independents are thinking
Philanthropy And Digital Civil Society: Blueprint 2022. Annual forecast produced by Lucy Bernholz of Stanford University. With a critical focus on how digital is shaping civil society - for good and not so good - this is something to read and mull over. It's not bite-sized nuggets for different trends - and as such it richly rewards reading end-to-end. Key insight: the increasing importance of the wealth management industry in philanthropy, typified by Donor Advised Funds, and the impact this has on strategy and culture in the sector. Highly recommended.
Civil Society Futures - the independent inquiry. Led by Julia Unwin, this is still one of the best, most relevant resources. It's now four years old, but I still think their clustering of drivers of change (report, p12-13) is incredibly useful if you want to think about what is shaping your organisation. Key insight: the need for civil society to fundamentally shift power to those most marginalised, or risk becoming irrelevant.
Belonging, Care, and Repair: Possible, Plausible and Just Futures for Civil Society (2022). Published by Careful Industries, this again develops scenarios by engaging those not normally heard in such exercises. There's also resources on how to do your own futures work. It's quirky, different to anything else you'll read, and at times a bit hard to follow. But futures work is full of warnings to avoid the default scenario.
(I really like this image from @fosslien - a good reminder that we can’t predict the future, but we can think about what’s driving change in our organisations)
Civil Action: exploring civil society's potential in the 2020s. Part of a bigger inquiry led by Pro Bono Economics, this is a data-rich review of civil society now that offers a great start for anyone thinking where next. And the accompanying collection of essays from people inside and outside the sector has some great provocations about what next. Key insight: civil society is full of untapped potential - but there is a big job of work to do to convince those outside the sector of that.
What the foundations are thinking
Ariadne 2022 Forecast: For European Social Change and Human Rights Funders. This is a Europe-wide forecast from a collective of social change grant makers, including the UK. It highlights the continued growth of social movements - and attempts at governments worldwide to repress them - while worrying about tech-billionaire driven philanthropy. Key insight: a legacy of Covid-19 may be more flexible, participatory and inclusive funding from foundations.
11 Trends in Philanthropy for 2022. Annual forecast from the US-based Johnson Center, this travels well to a UK context - particularly as we tend to experience social/cultural waves emerging from across the pond. Key insight: the decline in the proportion of households giving to charity is now becoming a real concern, regardless of the total amount being given.
What the membership bodies are thinking
The Road Ahead 2022. NCVO's annual horizon scanning exercise for the voluntary sector uses a PEST approach to identify key risks and issues on the radar. Go to this if you want a clear, methodical overview with questions to ask yourself about what to do next. Key insight: with little to separate political parties on public spending, culture has become a key battleground, with charities caught in the crossfire. But public opinion is more nuanced than we might think.
Voluntary Sector Futures (2021). Led by the Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) and Futurice, this is the product of extensive community engagement. There's also an accompanying futures toolkit - and if you're familiar with the three horizons approach to futures you'll find this useful. Key insight: without using the language of late-stage capitalism, it highlights that people increasingly want an economy measured by wellbeing, not GDP - and civil society has a role to play in that.
What the non-civil society people are thinking
Just two things. This isn't about 'the sector', or volunteering and philanthropy. Written by Andrew Curry, one of the best futures practitioners out there, it is quite simply the best thing you can read if you want your mind stretched on a daily basis. Andrew crams more insight into a typical email than many of us manage in a month.
I've put together a twitter list of futures thinkers and practitioners if you want to follow some of the people who are active in this area. And if I've missed anything out from the above list, let me know, and I'll add them - I am certain I will have missed some.
KW | April 2022