Bezold’s History and Future of Anticipatory Democracy and Foresight: Part 2
Click here for Part 1. At the IAF 40th Anniversary and in a recent article published in the World Futures Review, Clem Bezold described the history and the future of anticipatory democracy and foresight. Below we share some highlights from these. For the full article, please click here.
On the Rise of Equity and Maturing of Humanity
IAF’s approach to foresight is influenced by our commitment to equity.
Most foresight is done by and for governments and organizations with a unitary focus. The disaggregated impact on different populations are seldom assessed. Ignoring such disparities perpetuates inequities.
Yet we have witnessed in our work and beyond a growing awareness of and support for equity (and sustainability) in many forms. With this sensitivity to disparities among affected populations, there is increasing awareness of the need for appropriate tools that consider disparities and equity in policy — and recognition that foresight should contribute to that.
As futurists, we see the indicators of a significant long-term shift in re-defining and supporting equity. This shift at times gets overrun by counter trends and events, like the Trump election and the killing by police of unarmed black men. But “equity rising” is a fundamental trend that is occurring—a growing awakening to fairness or equity, including health equity. Differences among races, income classes, or other groupings that are avoidable and unfair are getting more and more attention.
As it did with slavery, humanity is changing its mind about fairness. In the 1840s, many people in the United States would say that slavery is just the way it is. By the 1860s, the movements and counter movements had grown, led to the Secession of the South, the Civil War, and the Emancipation Proclamation. Society changed its mind about slavery, albeit, the hard way.
Now society is changing its mind about equity or fairness more broadly. In the twentieth century, the Civil Rights Movement had to overcome the segregation and discrimination that followed the ending of slavery. Likewise, women’s rights—voting, education, employment, and pay were put in place. More recently lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) rights, particularly gay marriage, have been put in place. In all of these cases, the unfairness did not totally disappear. But it was no longer legally acceptable.
There are indicators of this trend toward equity in official definitions and goals. On the global stage, these include the World Health Organization’s “Health for All” vision in the 1990s, declaring that achieving true health for a community or a nation required meeting certain values: equity, solidarity, sustainability, ethics, and gender rights. (I had the honor of working with WHO in Europe, North America, and South America on this Health for All revisioning process). Similarly, the Millennium Development Goals and the successor Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include health equity among the globally accepted audacious goals.
In the United States, the nation’s “Healthy People” objectives evolved since the late 1990s to “eliminate health disparities” (for Healthy People 2010), “achieve health equity, eliminate disparities, and improve the health of all groups” (for Healthy People 2020), and more recently “eliminate health disparities, achieve health equity, and attain health literacy to improve the health and well-being of all” (proposed for Healthy People 2030).
This rise of equity is also visible in the directions and funding support from the RWJF, The Kresge Foundation, the Kellogg Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation among others. These and other indicators of this trend of rising support for equity reinforce Martin Luther King’s comment that “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Aligned with this trend, IAF projects consistently explore pathways to increasing equity and sustainability. For example, the Disparity Reducing Advances Project sought to identify the most promising advances for bringing health gains to low-income and underserved communities and to accelerate the development and deployment of these advances to reduce disparities. Another example is the Health Equity and Prosperity—An American Freedom and Justice Project that was led by Jonathan Peck. It brought together multiple partner organizations and convened hundreds of people to stimulate leadership in health equity.
On Future Tasks for Foresight and Anticipatory Democracy
Societies and nations need foresight processes. Some of the national foresight efforts mentioned in Part 1 are ongoing, as are some global foresight efforts to identify challenges and opportunities and develop shared visions and goals. However, there are some trends in particular that foresight and anticipatory democracy must consider and contribute to:
- Work and the Economy Are Being Transformed - Job loss to automation is estimated to range from 14.5 to 47 percent of U.S. jobs by 2030. There will be new jobs created in the process, but probably far fewer than those lost. Furthermore, distributed manufacturing or 3D printing will change many sectors, leading to a “zero marginal cost economy” where the marginal cost of producing something is nearly zero, and it sells at that price. AI will similarly lead many services to be made available at very low cost. This is expected to reduce the income and profit that can be generated in many sectors, and therefore drive high structural unemployment and increase the demands on safety net programs. Simultaneously, it will become more important that all, young and old, develop their own sense of personal meaning and that they are “contributing” throughout their life, whether through paid work, raising families, caring for older persons, or other volunteering.
- “Abundance Advances” Need to Be Made a Reality - That is, the range of technologies for low-cost in-home and in-community energy production and storage; local manufacturing (3D printing) of home goods, home building components or whole homes; in-home and in-community food production (from community gardening to urban/vertical agriculture; from conventional growing to aeroponics, cultured meat, 3D printed food). These need to be developed and deployed in sustainable and equitable ways.
The intersection of job loss to automation, tax and finance reform, income and safety net systems, including housing, and optimizing abundance advances—all require significant foresight.
What about the role and future of anticipatory democracy (A/D) itself?
A/D is foresight with active citizen participation. One central part of A/D are community future efforts. In the 1978 Anticipatory Democracy book, we documented those, primarily in the United States. These community goals and futures efforts have continued under various names, and their frequency has ebbed and flowed around the world. The Unites States, Canada, Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand all have had significant examples of thoughtful community futuring activities and goal setting. Some of these have focused on the future of their community overall, others focused on specific topics, such as health and wellness, or the environment. In the last two decades, equity and sustainability have been growing themes in the analysis and goal setting of these efforts, reflecting the “equity rising” trend.
We continue to observe the power of vision and shared goals in many community efforts, most recently in our Human Progress and Human Services 2035 project. Two of our local partners, for example, had developed widely shared community visions and goals—San Antonio and San Diego. They have real advantages over other communities in improving their residents’ well-being and accelerating positive change.
Going forward as a nation, we will need to have widespread participation in developing shared vision and effective designs to deal with the key challenges we are facing. This is important for giving each of us, as citizens and voters, thoughtful, meaningful choices to reflect on, including how the transformations we face—social, economic, and technological—will be rolled out.
A/D needs to help ensure that economic and social transformations work for all. This includes having the opportunity, for all, to make meaningful contributions. That is a significant task going forward, particularly in the face of huge unemployment, and the establishment of a guaranteed basic income. How might each of us pursue opportunities and make our contributions?
In conclusion, I believe that humanity is maturing. Foresight and A/D can help us individually and collectively understand what might happen, explore and invent positive options, clarify our values, and develop shared visions and goals. That is for me where A/D and foresight should be and are headed. It has been an honor, great fun, and very fulfilling to have traveled on these paths over our forty years at IAF.
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