Aspirational Futures, Updated and Selected for Major Source of Key Works in Futures Studies

Andy Hines and Richard Slaughter are updating the Knowledge Base of Futures Studies (KBFS), used by some of the leading academic futures programs as major source of key works in the field. We are pleased to share with you that the following article has been selected as one of the important articles to include in that collection – “Aspirational Futures” by Clem Bezold describing IAF’s approach, particularly developing scenarios that include expectable, challenging, and visionary possibilities. The article was originally published in 2009 in the Journal of Futures Studies.

For the KBFS update, Bezold has added more descriptions of the approach and additional examples, particularly how the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation used IAF’s scenario process in developing their 2014 vision of promoting a “culture of health”. The entire updated draft article is available here.

Below is the RWJF example of visionary scenarios leading to the RWJF Culture of Health vision:

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is the largest health philanthropy in the U.S., providing about $500 million annually in grants to promote health and increase health care quality and access. RWJF funded several IAF projects, including explorations of how emerging health technology could promote health equity; Vulnerability 2030 (Institute for Alternative Futures, 2011), scenarios on social and economic security; and Public Health 2030 (Institute for Alternative Futures, 2014).

In 2012, as part of their 40th Anniversary celebrations RWJF asked IAF to hold a scenario symposium. The event was well received and provided the Foundation with direction for their vision that was being revised at the time.

Typical of our Aspirational Futures approach to developing scenarios, the first scenario was expectable or “most likely,” the second explored a range of challenges, while the third and fourth explored paths to visionary outcomes. The fourth scenario “A Culture of Health”, envisioned communities creating environments to support and improve all domains of health, including the social, economic, and environmental determinants of health.

At the September 2012 Symposium, participants explored the scenarios, considered implications and developed broad recommendations (Institute for Alternative Futures, 2012).

RWJF reflected on the process, on the “visionary space” explored in the fourth scenario, and the recommendations. In 2014, they announced a vision of working with others to build a “culture of health” that gives everyone in America an equal opportunity to live the healthiest life they can. That commitment led them to define the social components of a culture of health; to develop metrics for measuring a culture of health; and focus their programs and grants more directly on community and leadership development.

Aspirational Futures, Updated, October 16, 2019 Draft

You can learn more about the projects mentioned above at the following links: