Images of the 2029 Association: Co-creating Insights into Alternative Futures

Signature i President Marsha Rhea will help association executives anticipate what they might experience in an expected, feared, or preferred future and learn how they can easily practice scenario thinking in their own associations during an ASAE 2019 Annual Conference learning lab in Columbus, OH.  

She will be weaving six drivers of change from the ASAE ForesightWorks research into three plausible images of the future and exploring how they might impact critical association functions. Scenarios help leaders systematically explore how drivers of change interact to create a future context and what the implications might be for making smarter decisions now. The basic storylines of these archetypal scenarios are easy for association leaders to grasp and co-create their own insights into alternative futures.

The expected future scenario, Leaning into Relevance, illustrates what association leaders may believe is the “official” future because it assumes associations will make steady progress with enhanced capabilities that reinforce current values and culture. This scenario might be closest to reflecting the assumptions many associations make in strategic planning.  

The feared future scenario illustrates the consequences of failing to act as challenging situations and issues grow worse. Organizations are buffeted by disruptive changes and find their values and culture under serious threat. The feared future, Walking on Egg Shells, evokes the emotions many associations could face in difficult times.

The preferred future scenario, entitled Championing Mutual Wellbeing, is expansive and inclusive of diverse interests. The opportunities for associations to lead major transformations and shifts in values and culture are evident although rarely easy to achieve.

“Scenarios can work wonders in helping leaders become better strategic thinkers. The expected future scenario helps them see their operating assumptions clearly. The feared future makes clear what they want to avoid, and the preferred future is an open invitation to live into vision,” Rhea said.

The six ASAE ForesightWorks drivers of change featured in these scenarios are virtualized meetings, personalized AI, cartel capitalism, splintered society, climate change resiliency, and rejection of expertise. Session participants will experience how the archetypes and scenario templates work, discuss the implications of these future images, and identify potential action steps associations might take now to prepare for alternative futures.

This learning session will give association executives an easy-to-replicate experience in foresight using the drivers of change research available through the ASAE ForesightWorks program. Rhea, who authored the User’s Guide for the ASAE ForesightWorks action briefs, will be working with the ASAE Foundation to produce a toolkit explaining this scenario methodology and how to use it with boards and staff teams. The learning session, Images of the 2029 Association, will be August 12 at 2 pm. Greater Columbus Convention Center, Union ABCD.