How to Think Like a Futurist for Your Association

Posted by Deb Dupnik on Aug 7, 2019 4:43:51 PM

Sue Pine, CAE presented this session at the MASAE Mid-year meeting to instill in us the importance of thinking like a futurist, not so we can predict the future, but so we can start to focus on trends that are occurring now so we can talk with our volunteer leaders to help us PREPARE for the future. She explained that Trends knowledge is helpful but can only tell you what people are doing now—not what you may need to know to prepare for the future. The ASAE ForesightWorks research takes a longer view, identifying drivers of change that are or will be important to the future work of associations.

Sue explained how to use the ASAE Foundation’s ForesightWorks to identify and explain the drivers of change in our organizations. She reviewed the action briefs for the Drivers of Change which were developed from evidence-based research that was created to assist association professionals in environmental scanning and planning for change. The ASAE program provides a continual stream of research and resources to empower association leaders to create a culture of foresight in their organizations. The program envisions a future in which association leaders not only are aware of potential changes ahead, but they are actively engaged with their organizational leadership, their staff, their members, and their peers to plan for and create opportunities from these changes.

By defining and setting the objectives for foresight, you can keep the project scope manageable and set your association on the path toward a successful outcome.

There are four elements to launching successful foresight practices:

  • Purpose. Why do you need to learn about the future? In what ways do you intend to use findings and insights to support and advance your association?
  • Champions. Who needs to be part of this process to secure understanding and buy-in for future plans and actions?
  • Creating a foundation. How can you stoke curiosity about the future and provide sufficient knowledge and training to support your foresight efforts at any commitment level?
  • Processes. What are the most time efficient and cost-effective ways to accomplish your objectives?

Thinking through these four factors will help you define the best way to begin or refine your foresight efforts.

The Elements of an Action Brief

close up of  white note paper on white background

Each action brief consists of four pages. These pages have been designed to work together or to be used independently for different purposes and audiences.

Page one can serve as a standalone page that summarizes the driver of change and its importance, or as an introduction to the other pages. This page provides a summary paragraph, forecasts—“probable futures” given the current trends and data—and key uncertainties—the “known unknowns” that need to be watched and considered when making downstream forecasts.

Page two is the supporting data page. This page elucidates some of the key trends that informed the forecasts, points to related ASAE ForesightWorks action briefs to help readers develop a comprehensive view, and provides a couple of supporting data points. The page provides evidential support for the forecasts described on page one.

Page three is the strategic insights page. Here you’ll find material to help you discuss the driver of change in a strategy session. The page includes broad insights, the projected timing and speed of the change, and some potential alternative futures—possible (though not probable) futures that should be considered from a risk management perspective.

Page four suggests potential actions. This page offers specific steps for addressing the change, identifies the types of organizations expected to be affected, and keywords to support continued research in this action brief area.

Sue presented this material in a user friendly way that inspired me to introduce ForesightWorks to my board. I purchased the license to ASAE ForesightWorks and will be including a discussion of some of the action briefs at my upcoming board meeting. I want to make sure my client will be aware of potential changes that may lie ahead so they can begin to plan for and create opportunities from these changes.

Topics: Foresight