Vulnerability 2030

In 2010, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation commissioned IAF to develop a set of scenarios describing the alternative futures of vulnerability and vulnerable populations in the U.S. in the year 2030. The project was part of the Foundation’s Vulnerable Populations Program, which addresses critical connections between health and social circumstances. IAF analyzed and assessed several major driving forces and factors including, but not limited to, the economy and employment, Internet and communications, environment, policy, food and diet, education, and technology.  IAF also created a scenario toolkit and videos for organizations to consider the implications of the Vulnerability 2030 Scenarios for their own strategies and operations.

Download the Report

The scenarios developed by IAF supported the portfolio’s strategy by describing how the critical connections between health and social circumstances may evolve over time, suggesting new opportunities to reduce vulnerability.  Questions addressed by the scenarios include: What will happen to the economy in the next two decades?  What disasters may challenge vulnerable populations and how might they be prevented or mitigated?  How might the internet and wireless communications affect and be used by vulnerable populations?  Will manufacturing continue to leave the U.S., or return to U.S. communities – or even households – in new, decentralized forms?  Will there be major transformations in social policies?

Materials created during the project are available here.  You will find a paper reviewing the history of vulnerability in the U.S. in the 20th century, forecasts for ten key drivers shaping the future of vulnerability, the scenarios themselves, and links to a “scenario toolkit” that organizations can use for their own long-term thinking on vulnerability.  We hope that these scenarios will provide greater understanding of the challenges we face as well as the options we may have in the years to come.

History of Vulnerability in the U.S.

IAF began this project with a report on The History of Vulnerability in the United States.  History shows clearly that what happened was not inevitable.  It was shaped by what people believed and what they did, for better and for worse.  Looking back at the successes in reducing vulnerability in the Progressive Era, the New Deal, the civil rights movement, the War on Poverty and many smaller, focused efforts, we should never forget how much the people involved cared, how much they dared, and how hard they worked.

Driver Forecasts

As part of its research, IAF developed forecasts on ten key drivers affecting the future of vulnerability.  These forecasts were later used as the basis for interviews with thought leaders in related fields.  The drivers are listed below and linked to the forecasts.

  1. Economy & Jobs
  2. Housing & Neighborhoods
  3. Education
  4. Government
  5. Environment & Resources
  6. Food & Diet
  7. Cultural, Social & Generational Change
  8. Criminality & Corrections
  9. Technology
  10. Web & Communications

Vulnerability 2030 Scenario Toolkit

IAF has developed this scenario toolkit with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The purpose of the toolkit is to help organizations consider the implications of the Vulnerability 2030 Scenarios for their own strategies and operations. The toolkit allows your organization to conduct its own scenario planning exercise. To do this, you will need the following documents as well as the videos below.

  • Vulnerability 2030 Scenario Report
  • Scenario Workshop Agenda (choose one):
    • Full-Day Workshop
    • 3-Hour Workshop
  • Small Group Response Form
  • Handout for Considering Scenario Likelihood & Preferability

The following videos will walk you through a scenario process that begins with an introduction, then presents the four different scenarios, and then concludes with instructions on how to consider the implications of the scenarios for your organization’s efforts.

Video 1: Introduction

Video 2: Scenario 1 – Comeback?

Video 3: Scenario 2 – Dark Decades

Video #4: Scenario 3 – Equitable Economy

Video #5: Scenario 4 – Creative Communities

Video #6: Conclusion