Turning from Individualism toward Interdependence

If our job as humans is to create the future we prefer, then the priority for the next decade may be to rediscover our interdependence.

This insight comes from participating with other futurists, alumni and past clients of the Institute for Alternative Futures at the institute's 40th anniversary seminar and celebration earlier this month. IAF Founder Clem Bezold expressed what I found in my seven years with the organization to be IAF’s defining vision:  “Our job as humans is to create the future we prefer.”

Listening to panels and working in a scenario group assigned to select forecasts defining a challenging future, I identified three important challenges to society that demand our reawakening to our interdependence.

  1. Different-ness not divisiveness, diversity with inclusion. We have to honor and value the increasing diversity among humans, rather than be fearful and tribal. The urgency confronts us almost daily in the headlines. Every association client in the past year has elevated diversity and inclusion as a strategic plan priority. Diversity and inclusion is also one of the 41 change drivers identified in the ASAE ForesightWorks project.
  2. Shared vision that unites our splintered society. Society is splintering in so many ways that the social cohesion required to organize human affairs is slipping away. The fault lines are many: political, social, cultural, geography, education, economic. It's difficult to imagine what that shared vision might be, but we can start small creating truly compelling visions in our own organizations and communities. Out of the many we might find the common ties that can bind us.   
  3. Redefining work in ways that offer meaning and economic sustainability. We are in a time of transition in the workforce and workplace with jobs being deconstructed by the growth in freelance or gig work, increasing automation and disruptive innovative in many industries. It's not being alarmist to wonder where our livelihood and sense of self-worth will be assured in the future. Part of the solution may be found in discovering how we can be more human humans--something we can only fully discover and develop in community.

Values can be slow to change, yet when they do, we marvel at what we believed before and after. Societal crisis brings these turning points when we see the folly in our old beliefs. Individualism has overstayed its usefulness as a dominant value and the pendulum must how swing hard toward interdependence.