Alternative Futures, Transpartisan Options

Transpartisan Note #69

by A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner

On October 5, 2017 The Institute for Alternative Futures (IAF) celebrated its fortieth anniversary of working in Washington, DC, at a daylong Symposium on ‘Foresight and Creating the Futures We Prefer’.

IAF describes its mission as ‘a leader in the creation of preferred futures’.  Since its founding in 1977 by Clement Bezold, Alvin Toffler and James Dator, IAF has helped organizations monitor trends, explore future possibilities, and create the futures they prefer.’

IAF offers these possibilities using futures methodologies—environmental scans, forecasts, scenarios, visioning, and its own ‘aspirational futures’ technique—to guide government agencies, corporations, and non-profit organizations to discover alternative futures and possibilities.  They offer useful tools that help see ways forward.

The Institute for Alternative Futures’ work on the future of healthcare includes perspectives from consumers, providers, payers, regulators, and industry.  In its health foresight project for Congress, IAF convened staff health assistants from Congressional offices representing every political hue and exchanged important, grounded health information with them.

The process highlighted points of agreement in the contentious health debate, including covering preexisting conditions, the importance of insurance coverage, and being able to take insurance from job to job.  The process teases out such issues from the complexities of  a debate driven largely by partisan politics.  It begins with the agreements of diverse of people, which makes it transpartisan at its core.

IAF works in other fields, such as education, stressing lifelong learning and creating adaptive ‘learning organizations’ with its clients.  It focuses on monitoring research on how individuals and groups learn, emerging technologies for learning, and future-responsive curriculum design.

At its fortieth anniversary symposium IAF demonstrated the methods it applies to non-profit, government and corporate clients like The American Cancer Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),  and Johnson and Johnson.

It traces its methods and approach to a 1933 report of the President’s Committee on Social Trends, with a forward by outgoing President Herbert Hoover, who created the Committee, and the work of Franklin D. Roosevelt brain truster Rexford Tugwell.

With transpartisan roots IAF offers tools for transpartisans saying ‘We open eyes, hearts and minds to alternative futures showing that aspiration is powerful and enduring.  We . . . look over the horizon so that their decisions today are accountable to tomorrow.’

For the past forty years The Institute for Alternative Futures pointed to future directions that uplifted its colleagues, clients and collaborators.  Its tools offer transpartisan choices for the next phase of American development.

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