IAF Releases Human Services 2035 Report

The Institute for Alternative Futures (IAF) and The Kresge Foundation release a new publication, Human Services and Human Progress 2035, that explores what human progress, human need and human services will be in the United States in 2035.

The human services sector includes over 100,000 organizations and provides $200 billion in services. Yet it faces significant uncertainty about its operations, funding, value, and role. To explore these issues and their implications for the sector, The Kresge Foundation and IAF partnered with thought leaders to develop scenarios describing expectable, challenging, and visionary futures of human services in the U.S.

The Human Progress and Human Services 2035 scenarios consider the macro trends in the economy, employment, technology, health, and the environment, as well as the driving forces shaping human service both in general and in key areas, e.g., aging, behavioral health, children and family, disability, food and nutrition, housing and income supports.

Scenarios offer different stories describing how the future may unfold, which can be used to bound uncertainty into a limited number of paths. They reveal what decisions and strategies made today will help the sector achieve a preferred future. For human progress and human services these include:

  • Scenario 1: Reductions and Rebounds explores the expectable or most likely for human services, though not necessarily preferred.
  • Scenario 2: Navigating Unending Challenges explores some of the issues and problems the nation and human services might face.
  • Scenario 3: Building Human Potential explores a visionary future changing hearts and mind with a guaranteed basic income, increased equity, greater self-sufficiency, and integrated human serving supports.
  • Scenario 4: Thriving Communities explores a visionary future changing hearts and mind with a living wage, increased equity, greater self-sufficiency, and integrated human serving supports.

In addition to developing national human service scenarios, IAF has worked with the human services community in several states (Mississippi and Connecticut), counties (Montgomery, MD; San Diego, CA; Jefferson, CO), and cities (Memphis, TN; San Antonio, TX; and Richmond, VA) to develop 2035 scenarios for their specific places and organizations. Three additional communities will be identified in the fall 2018.

Other local, state, and national leaders may use the scenarios to consider uncertainties, trends, and forces that will shape human services and their organizations.

The national Human Progress and Human Services 2035 scenarios and recommendations as well as those from the eight state and local efforts are available at https://altfutures.org/projects/human-progress-and-human-services-2035 and https://kresge.org/human-services-2035.


The Kresge Foundation is a $3.6 billion private, national foundation that works to expand opportunities in America’s cities. The Human Services Program is committed to accelerating social and economic mobility with two primary focus areas: next generation human services providers and place-based opportunity ecosystems. To support these focus areas, the Human Services Program is making cross-cutting investments to advance a robust Human Services Sector and aligned policy solutions, including ones that address racial equity, health and human services integration, workforce opportunities, and outcomes-based contracting. For more information on Kresge’s programs, strategic objectives and focus areas, visit www.kresge.org.

The Institute for Alternative Futures is a nonprofit research and educational organization that helps communities and organizations more wisely understand and better create the futures they prefer. Since 1977, IAF has been a pioneer in the use of futures methods, such as forecasts, scenarios, and vision, in health and health care, energy, transportation, education, and business. These human services scenarios build on IAF’s previous work in health and health equity, such as Primary Care 2025, Vulnerability 2030, Public Health 2030, and Health and Health Care 2032. For more information, visit www.altfutures.org.