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The History and Future of Anticipatory Democracy and Foresight

  • Institute for Alternative Futures


Anticipatory democracy involves enhanced participation in shaping the future. Foresight involves applying futures tools to decision making. The Institute for Alternative Futures (IAF) over its four decades of work with communities, governments, and companies has evolved its “aspirational futures” approach that calls for creating expectable, challenging, and visionary scenarios and using these to enhance vision and the creation of preferred futures. Jim Dator’s approach to scenario development was IAF’s starting place. IAF has supported foresight in executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government, with the largest companies and nonprofit organizations, across six continents. Humanity is maturing, and the values of equity and inclusion are rising globally. Economies are transforming, including major job loss to automation and “abundance advances” technologies that provide low cost energy, 3D printing and local manufacturing, and home and community food production that have the potential to lower the cost of living. Foresight must be applied to understand and help create equitable and sustainable futures using these abundance advances in a transformed economy.
World Futures Review
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DOI: 10.1177/1946756718810768
Origins of the Institute for
Alternative Futures (IAF)
IAF was founded to promote and pursue antici-
patory democracy and foresight. “Anticipatory
democracy” was introduced by a major event in
the futures field—the publication of Alvin
Toffler’s 1970 best-selling book, Future Shock
(Toffler 1970). Toffler diagnosed “future shock”
as a side effect of increasingly rapid change and
as a driver of social problems. In the last chapter
of the book, he proposed a prescription for
future shock: anticipatory democracy.
I met Toffler in 1973 while I was doing
research on my dissertation on Congress and
foresight. At the time, the energy crisis was
raging, and I was a graduate student working
with Jon Mills, Director of the University of
Florida Law School’s Center for Governmental
Responsibility. It seemed irresponsible to let
crises like this emerge and surprise us. So as a
political scientist, I set up my dissertation to
explore foresight—ways to anticipate change
and to avoid crisis decision-making. That work
took me into being a futurist.
One of the case studies I examined for my
dissertation was the “foresight provision” of
the Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives.
810768WFRXXX10.1177/1946756718810768World Futures ReviewBezold
1Institute for Alternative Futures, Alexandria, VA, USA
Corresponding Author:
Clem Bezold, Institute for Alternative Futures, 2331 Mill
Road, Suite 100, Alexandria, VA 22314, USA.
The History and Future of
Anticipatory Democracy
and Foresight
Clem Bezold1
Anticipatory democracy involves enhanced participation in shaping the future. Foresight involves
applying futures tools to decision making. The Institute for Alternative Futures (IAF) over its four
decades of work with communities, governments, and companies has evolved its “aspirational
futures” approach that calls for creating expectable, challenging, and visionary scenarios and using
these to enhance vision and the creation of preferred futures. Jim Dator’s approach to scenario
development was IAF’s starting place. IAF has supported foresight in executive, legislative, and
judicial branches of government, with the largest companies and nonprofit organizations, across
six continents. Humanity is maturing, and the values of equity and inclusion are rising globally.
Economies are transforming, including major job loss to automation and “abundance advances”
technologies that provide low cost energy, 3D printing and local manufacturing, and home
and community food production that have the potential to lower the cost of living. Foresight
must be applied to understand and help create equitable and sustainable futures using these
abundance advances in a transformed economy.
foresight, anticipatory democracy, aspirational futures, equity, abundance advances, scenarios
2 World Futures Review 00(0)
The provision was added in 1975 to the over-
sight responsibility in Section 10 of the House
Rules. This foresight responsibility calls on
committees to do futures research and fore-
casting that identify changes in the larger envi-
ronment and their implications for legislation.
Toffler had influenced John Culver, an Iowa
Representative who was responsible for the
House foresight provision. Together with his
wife Heidi, Toffler had started the Committee
for Anticipatory Democracy, which advocated
for anticipatory democracy and foresight in the
1970s. The Committee comprised national
thought leaders including Margaret Mead,
Betty Friedan, Jonas Salk, as well as leading
futurists Roy Amara, Jim Dator, Buckminster
Fuller, Ted Gordon, and Willis Harman.
Politician/futurists were also active at various
times, including Newt Gingrich, Al Gore,
Stuart Udall, and John Culver.
Toffler asked me to join the Committee and
to coordinate some of its efforts. At the request
of Culver (in 1974, he had been elected Senator
Culver) and two Representatives, Charlie Rose
of North Carolina and John Heinz of
Pennsylvania, Toffler, Jim Dator, and I worked
with the Committee to put on the first legisla-
tive seminar on foresight for the U.S. Congress
in September 1975. The attendees included
Senator Ted Kennedy.
The next year, Toffler convinced William
Birenbaum, then President of Antioch
University, to put up the seed money for us to
start the IAF, housed at the Antioch School of
Law. This novel law school had been created by
the founders of Legal Services Corporation—
Edgar and Jean Camper Cahn—as a law school
that would train lawyers to work for the poor.
That is where we started IAF in January of
1977, and it has always been for me a touch-
stone of the Institute.
The first conference that we organized at
IAF in 1977 considered alternative futures for
the American legal system. It resulted in the
book Judging the Future (Dator and Bezold
1981). This was the topic of IAF’s first confer-
ence because of Jim Dator’s long involvement
with foresight in justice systems and the inter-
est of Dean Edgar Cahn.
Anticipatory Democracy
There were lots of activity in the 1970s
focused on anticipatory democracy—much of
it stimulated or reinforced by Toffler. He
recruited several leaders of these efforts to
write articles and asked me to edit the result-
ing book: Anticipatory Democracy: People in
the Politics of the Future (Bezold 1978).
So, what is anticipatory democracy? As
Toffler wrote in the introduction to Anticipatory
Democracy, “The simplest definition of antici-
patory democracy . . . is that it is a process for
combining citizen participation with future
consciousness” (Toffler 1978, xii). Toffler
argued that representative government was a
key political institution of the industrial era
and that new forms must be expected in the
face of crushing decision overload or political
future shock we faced. That remains an issue
today, amplified by social media and the more
ever-present news cycle. Toffler also noted that
anticipatory democracy is broader than partici-
pation in politics and policy-making. It also
includes worker participation, citizen move-
ments, technology assessment, and consumer
And Jim Dator wrote a chapter of the book
on the future of anticipatory democracy. He
said that the aim of anticipatory democracy is
to democratize futures research and research-
ers, and to futurize democratic processes. And
that anticipatory democracy should find a way
to help people dream undreamed dreams and
realize them, instead of rehashing the same old
nightmares and ghosts. “I believe we can and
we must [do this], and the future of anticipa-
tory democracy that I prefer—if not the one I
see—lies in this direction” (Dator 1978, 328).
Inspired by Anticipatory Democracy, IAF
facilitated many futures efforts in cities and
states, for all branches of government, non-
profit organizations, and corporations. In the
process, we developed our Aspirational
Futures approach to foresight that enables the
exploration of likely or expectable, challeng-
ing, and visionary or surprisingly successful
futures. (More on our Aspirational Futures
approach in the following.)
Bezold 3
IAF and Foresight in
Foresight in government has been a major
focus of our work. Foresight is important for
all three branches—executive, legislative, and
judicial—though there are differences in how
each does their foresight. We’ve had the plea-
sure to work with all three branches at the fed-
eral level and in many states; governments in
Asia, Africa, Europe, Canada, and Mexico;
and the UN family, particularly the World
Health Organization.
Foresight in the Judicial Branch
Jim Dator has led a wide range of activities in the
United States and around the world for this
branch of government. As noted above, IAF’s
first conference in 1977 was on the futures of the
legal system (Dator and Bezold 1981). One of
my favorite IAF projects of these past forty years
was “Visions for the Courts: A Capacity Building
Project.” Wendy Schultz of Jim’s Hawaii
Research Center for Futures Studies, the National
Center for State Courts, and I developed a train-
ing guide to enable state court systems to develop
their own scenarios and vision (Schultz et al.
1993). In the ensuing decade, more than thirty
state court systems held some kind of futures
activity, most using that training material.
Foresight in the Executive Branch
In the twentieth century, some presidents have had
the urge to do foresight. Herbert Hoover created
the Committee on Social Trends, which produced
Recent Social Trends in the United States
(Committee on Social Trends, 1933), one of the
major government foresight reports that Jim Dator
identified in his presentation at the IAF Fortieth
Anniversary Symposium. Franklin Roosevelt’s
administration had the National Resources
Committee (NRC) and the National Resources
Planning Board (NRPB) provide studies and ideas
for many New Deal programs. The NRPB’s activ-
ity became so significant that it upset Congress,
which closed it down in 1943. Since then, how-
ever, many federal agencies do in fact engage in
foresight—more on that in the following.
Around the world, at the national level, there
is significant foresight activity. Policy Horizons
Canada is the leading national foresight office.
IAF has had the honor of doing our Aspirational
Futures training for them. Finland has integrated
its executive and legislative foresight activity.
Singapore has a major national foresight opera-
tion integrated throughout their agencies, par-
ticularly national defense agencies.
While there are government agencies and
departments around the world that do fore-
sight all the time, it is also true that govern-
mental foresight waxes and wanes, just as it
does in companies. Unfortunately, previous
waves of foresight within organizations are
often forgotten.
In mid to late 2010, the U.S. federal govern-
ment is in, what I would call, its third wave of
significant foresight activities. There is enough
activity that those working in foresight have
created a Federal Foresight Community of
Interest (FFCOI) that meets quarterly with doz-
ens of federal agencies taking part. Foresight is
also alive and well around the globe via several
broader networks. For example, IAF has sup-
ported the Public Sector Foresight Network
(PSFN) that Nancy Donovan of the U.S.
Government Accountability Office (GAO) and
I lead (
foresight-network). The Millennium Project
also maintains a network of national and
regional nodes that do foresight (http://www. The European Union
supports a significant foresight network and the
most extensive database of foresight activities,
the European Foresight Monitoring Network,
with cases from around the world (http:// In Latin
America, RIBER, the Iberoamerican Network
for Prospective of the Millennium Project (Red
IBERoamericana de Prospectiva; http://www, has major annual regional meetings
and has produced a major book identifying fore-
sight activities in the region (RIBER).
Foresight in Legislatures
Where does foresight sit in Congress and state
legislatures? For the U.S. Congress and legis-
latures generally, looking far into the future
4 World Futures Review 00(0)
can seem strange. Furthermore, there has been
historic hostility toward legislative branch
foresight on the part of many in Congress—
especially if it is foresight by the other party.
Foresight includes the need to explore
assumptions and alternatives, as well as look at
the impacts and side effects of policy.
Considering negative trends or possibilities,
particularly the potential side effects of legisla-
tion, requires a high level of trust and institu-
tional capacity to produce these analyses.
Partisan hostility drives trust out of most legis-
latures. This has been a significant problem in
the U.S. House since the 1990s.
Congress has indeed created mechanisms,
often through its support organizations, to pro-
vide foresight. These include opening the
Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) in the
1970s, though the House killed it in 1994 as
part of Newt Gingrich’s revolution after he
became House Speaker. The Congressional
Research Service (CRS) does some forecast-
ing as part of its research for members of
Congress and Committees. GAO does major
trend reports and (after OTA’s demise) has
stepped up to do technology assessments when
asked by Congressional Committees. IAF has
worked on some of these for GAO.
Another important example is the “scor-
ing” by the Congressional Budget Office
(CBO), to assess the impacts of legislation.
The CBO’s analysis, however, is often ignored
by proponents if the scoring shows negative
impacts. House and Senate Committees do
have hearings that include questions about the
future, though often not systematic, nor deal-
ing with alternative forecasts. The House fore-
sight provision (as noted, the research on this
provision for my dissertation helped launch
me into working with Toffler and becoming a
futurist) remains in the House Rules but is
largely ignored by House Committees. So,
there is ongoing foresight work in and around
the U.S. Congress, but it remains spotty.
Democrats in the House periodically intro-
duce legislation that would recreate OTA, and
it is defeated by the Republican majority. If
Democrats get control of Congress, OTA may
be reestablished.
Foresight beyond Government
Foresight is useful for governance, as well as
for other sectors, industries, fields, organiza-
tions, professions, and communities. For all of
them, foresight offers early warnings of risks
and opportunities, and the ability to see the big
picture, to better understand systems and clar-
ify assumptions. It allows us to identify
impacts, side effects of decisions and policies.
These functions have become routinized in
some areas, such as required environmental
impact assessments. Foresight also should—
we at IAF argue—enhance aspiration and
shared vision, and the ability to check the
robustness of your strategies. In 1982, we cre-
ated Alternative Futures Associates (AFA),
IAF’s for-profit subsidiary. Through AFA, we
have worked with the largest companies glob-
ally, including 10 percent of the global five
hundred and over the years doing scenario
work on six continents.
Aspirational Futures: IAF’s
Contribution on How to Do
Futurizing democratic processes and helping
people dream powerful visions and create
them is what IAF has been doing. We have
learned and grown since the 1970s in how to
do this. In the process, we evolved our own
particular approach to foresight: “Aspirational
Foresight helps individuals, communities,
and organizations in understanding the future
and in choosing and creating the futures they
prefer. For understanding the future, there is a
big selection of tools. The major ones that IAF
uses are scanning, trends, forecasts, and sce-
narios. These help you identify and forecast
change, clarify assumptions, and explore alter-
natives, including visionary options.
For creating preferred futures, vision—ide-
ally a powerful and shared vision—is one of the
most important tools. Pursuing shared vision
makes a big difference, whether it is a commu-
nity, a government agency, a nonprofit organi-
zation, or a business. For example, in their
Bezold 5
book Built to Last, James Collins and Jerry
Porras report that companies with a powerful
shared vision outperformed their competition
by a factor of eight over a seventy-five-year
period in the twentieth century (Collins and
Porras 1994).
Furthermore, a powerful shared vision is
one of the most effective change management
tools. Given a higher purpose, people are more
willing to change even if they feel their posi-
tion or interests are threatened by that change.
Visions are your values projected into the
future, creating a “north star” to guide what
you do. Vision involves committing to create
that preferred future. Vision is more than
understanding—it is commitment and cre-
ation. In IAF’s government, nonprofit, and
corporate work, we have seen the power of
shared vision make a huge difference in the
organizations we were aiding.
Choosing and creating your preferred future
is really putting yourself, your community into
the space of saying what it is that you most
want to create, what your vision is. At their
best, those visions are ennobling definitions.
This stimulates creativity, releases energy, and
links values to choices.
Our understanding of and use of vision have
been shaped by several colleagues that I would
like to acknowledge:
Trevor Hancock, a Canadian public
health physician and environmentalist
who brought vision into the community
futuring and health futures work that we
did in the early 1980s;
Jonathan Peck for his relentless inclusion
of intuition, feeling (vs. thinking in the
Myers Briggs Type Indicator context),
humanity, and engagement across IAF’s
vision and scenario development work;
Roger Fritz, an architect, community
developer, and executive coach who
worked with us on many efforts over
two decades. He shared with us his
“Aspirations Model” that helps people
understand that creating your future—
driven by your aspirations—should
shape your behavior and that helps
change your circumstances. In contrast,
many people suffer changes in their cir-
cumstances (e.g., loss of a job, cut in
budgets), and their behavior becomes
reactive; they become victims of their
circumstances and lose their aspirations
(Fritz and Underwood 2006).
Bob Olson, as IAF’s Research Director,
developed and maintained alternative
forecasts and scenarios for high tech
and high spirit transformations;
Jim Collins and Jerry Porras with their
book Built to Last and their subsequent
work (Collins and Porras 1994);
Peter Senge, for his ongoing work on
vision and learning (Senge 1990),
including, in the early 1990s providing
detailed coaching on a major national
health care vision project we were
Leland Kaiser and Kathryn Johnson
who lead vision infusion into health and
health care, and my colleagues at the
International Health Futures Network,
including our development of the
Celebration Health Vision for the
Disney Development Corporation and
Florida Hospital;
Joan McIntosh and her colleagues at
“The Grove” and the graphic artist
movement for integrating audacious
goals and graphic facilitation into our
work across many projects;
Wendy Schultz, Beatriz Monahan, Jim
Dator, and Oregon Chief Justice Wallace
Carson, for their work on our vision and
scenario training for state courts, the
project where I said “scenarios are
futures for the head, and vision is futures
for the heart”; and
The leaders of Military Health Systems
2020 (MHS 2020) that developed vision
and audacious goals that shaped
Military Medicine for decades: William
Rowley (who subsequently became
IAF’s COO), Scott Beaty, Ed Ponatoski,
and Eric Schoomaker.
Ian Miles, Luke Georghiou, and their
colleagues at the University of
Manchester in our scenario work for
U.K. agencies where we added their
6 World Futures Review 00(0)
description of preferred futures as sur-
prisingly successful space or “success
In working with our clients, whether organiza-
tions, communities, or corporations, we often
do both scenario and vision work. Among our
corporate clients, there were several for whom
this led to vision-driven change management.
The Gartner Group did a global survey of mul-
tinational companies on what groups did
effective change management consulting for
multinational companies. Based on this survey,
they identified a few large consulting firms and
a dozen “boutique firms” globally doing effec-
tive change management—and IAF was on that
list! We were honored, even though we don’t
sell “change management” services. We earned
a spot on that list for facilitating the develop-
ment of powerful shared visions that gave peo-
ple throughout the organization a higher shared
purpose and, thus, enabled the organization and
its corporate leaders to make the changes
needed to achieve the shared vision.
An important innovation in scenario devel-
opment that is at the core of our Aspirational
Futures approach is our calling for develop-
ing scenarios in each of three different types
of futures or zones of the future (Bezold
expectable (most likely)—given current
trends what is most likely to happen?
challenging (what could go wrong)—
what are key challenges that are plausi-
ble and should be thought about?
visionary (surprisingly successful,
undreamt dreams)—if multiple stake-
holders and the environment aligned to
create your vision of the future, what
would it look like and what path would
take us there?
Scenarios are powerful. They stimulate the
imagination and enable us to check assumptions
and clarify implications. They explore different
kinds of future space. With Aspirational Futures,
we have the client consciously define “vision-
ary” space for the organization or community
developing the scenarios. We have worked with
many groups who enhanced or revised their
vision after exploring the visionary scenarios in
their collection of futures. One striking example
was the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
(RWJF), the largest health-focused foundation
in the United States, as Jim Marks described in
his Welcome to IAF Fortieth Anniversary
Symposium. RWJF had Jonathan Peck develop
a Scenario Symposium as part of its own
Fortieth Anniversary celebrations in 2012. One
of the two visionary scenarios was “Culture of
Health.” The Foundation reflected on the sce-
narios and the experience of their symposium.
They made creating a “Culture of Health” their
vision and redirected their programs and fund-
ing to achieve this (Institute for Alternative
Futures 2017, 3–6).
Learning Scenarios from Jim
Our Aspirational Futures approach to scenario
development grew out of Jim Dator’s mentor-
ing and his own approach to scenarios. Jim and
Al Toffler had been my major guides to futures
in the years before we established the Institute
in 1977. Jim, based on his observations, noted
that all our narratives (stories, scenarios) on
social change issues can be classified into four
recurring groups of images, stories, or policies
regarding effects of that change, as follows:
1. Continuation—business as usual, more
of the status quo growth;
2. Limits and Discipline—behaviors to
adapt to growing internal or environ-
mental limits;
3. Decline and Collapse—system degrada-
tion or failure modes as crisis emerges;
4. Transformation—new technology, busi-
ness, or social factors that change the
We used these in our early work. Over time,
they have evolved in their focus to the
Continuation/Business as Usual became
“Expectable”—the most likely future
Bezold 7
based on current trends. (If the major
trends include significant change, then
the expectable scenario will not be a
continuation. For example, there are
expectable technology-driven trans-
formations, just as the Internet has
transformed our economics, learning,
entertainment, and social interactions
over the last two to three decades. It is
expectable that future technology devel-
opments will also transform our lives,
so these would be included in an
“expectable” scenario.)
Jim’s second scenario, Limits and
Discipline, and his third, Decline and
Collapse, were merged to become
“Challenging” in our scenarios explor-
ing what “could go wrong,” forcing
groups to consider major challenges
they might confront. In our challenging
scenario, this can lead to dire circum-
stances but seldom collapse. Jim argues
that most systems do face the real pros-
pect of collapse and one of the scenarios
should explore that.
Transformation evolved to become
“Visionary”—with visionary as defined
by the community or organization
developing the scenarios. In the early
days of using Jim’s categories, we dif-
ferentiated between “high tech” trans-
formations as described by Al Toffler,
and “high spirit” transformations as
described by Willis Harman. As we
became more aware of the power of
vision and incorporated that into our
foresight practice, it made sense to use
the power of scenarios to explore what
visionary futures would be and describe
the paths to those futures. After all, our
job as humans, organizations, and com-
munities is to imagine the future we pre-
fer, to define those preferred futures,
commit to them, and create them.
Scenarios should allow us to explore
our visions, our aspirations. And this
exploration of “visionary space” needs
to be defined by the user, rather than
IAF. The value of defining visionary
space and the paths to it lead us to say
that in developing a set of four scenar-
ios, two should be visionary—allowing
the exploration of different visionary
outcomes and/or different pathways to
these “surprisingly successful” futures.
The Rise of Equity and
Maturing of Humanity
Our approach to foresight is also influenced by
our commitment to equity. We have observed
the trend in values and attitudes in support of
greater equity (and sustainability). Most fore-
sight is done by and for governments and orga-
nizations with a unitary focus. The disaggregated
impact on different populations are seldom
assessed. Ignoring such disparities perpetuates
inequities. Yet we have witnessed in our work
and beyond a growing awareness of and support
for equity in many forms. With this sensitivity
to disparities among affected populations, there
is increasing awareness of the need for appro-
priate tools that consider disparities and equity
in policy—and recognition that foresight should
contribute to that. We at IAF have made a com-
mitment to equity and health equity in our work.
As futurists, we see the indicators of a sig-
nificant long-term shift in re-defining and sup-
porting equity. This shift at times gets overrun
by counter trends and events, like the Trump
election and the killing by police of unarmed
black men. But “equity rising” is a fundamental
trend that is occurring—a growing awakening
to fairness or equity, including health equity.
Differences among races, income classes, or
other groupings that are avoidable and unfair
are getting more and more attention.
As it did with slavery, humanity is changing
its mind about fairness. In the 1840s, many
people in the United States would say that
slavery is just the way it is. By the 1860s, the
movements and counter movements had
grown, led to the Secession of the South, the
Civil War, and the Emancipation Proclamation.
Society changed its mind about slavery, albeit,
the hard way.
Now society is changing its mind about
equity or fairness more broadly. In the twenti-
eth century, the Civil Rights Movement had to
overcome the segregation and discrimination
8 World Futures Review 00(0)
that followed the ending of slavery. Likewise,
women’s rights—voting, education, employ-
ment, and pay were put in place. More recently
lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer
(LGBTQ) rights, particularly gay marriage,
have been put in place. In all of these cases, the
unfairness did not totally disappear. But it was
no longer legally acceptable.
There are indicators of this trend toward
equity in official definitions and goals. For
example, the World Health Organization, in
revising its “Health for All” vision in the
1990s, declared that achieving true health for a
community or a nation required meeting cer-
tain values: equity, solidarity, sustainability,
ethics, and gender rights. Similarly, the
Millennium Development Goals and the suc-
cessor Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
included health equity among the globally
accepted audacious goals.
In the United States, every ten years, the
nation declares its health goals for the nation in
its “Healthy People” process. In the late 1990s,
it set its Healthy People 2010 Objectives for
the Nation, including two overarching goals:
“increase quality and years of healthy life” and
“eliminate health disparities.” For 2020, these
goals were amended to say “achieve health
equity, eliminate disparities, and improve the
health of all groups.” The draft 2030 overarch-
ing goals include “eliminate health disparities,
achieve health equity, and attain health literacy
to improve the health and well-being of all.”
My own observations on “equity rising”
were shaped by my having the honor to work
as a facilitator to the World Health Organization
(WHO) on the Health for All revision and to
the Department of Health and Human Services
on the development of the 2010 Healthy
People Objectives. This rise of equity is also
visible in the directions and funding support
from the RWJF, The Kresge Foundation, the
Kellogg Foundation, and the Rockefeller
Foundation. These and other indicators of this
trend of rising support for equity reinforce
Martin Luther King’s comment that “The arc
of the moral universe is long, but it bends
toward justice.”
There are two particular IAF projects to
note in alignment with this trend. First, the
Disparity Reducing Advances Project (the
DRA Project,
health-equity/#DRA-Project) was a multiyear,
multistakeholder project supported by the
RWJF, the National Cancer Institute, the
Centers for Disease Control, the Agency for
Health Research and Quality, and Florida
Hospital to identify the most promising
advances for bringing health gains to low-
income and underserved communities and to
accelerate the development and deployment of
these advances to reduce disparities. DRA
Project reports, available at the link above,
include several on technology, particularly
biomonitoring, the social determinants of
health, obesity, and diabetes, as well as a paper
for the American Medical Association’s
Commission to End Health Care Disparities
(Bezold et al. 2008).
Second, from 2016 to 2018, Jonathan Peck
led our Health Equity and Prosperity—An
American Freedom and Justice Project (http://
Project) that brought together multiple partner
organizations and convened hundreds of peo-
ple to stimulate leadership in health equity.
This eighteen-month project was funded by the
RWJF, and has been folded into the efforts of a
key partner, hundred Million Healthier Lives,
which is working on the goal of measurably
making hundred million people healthier by
the end of the year 2020.
Future Tasks for Foresight
and Anticipatory Democracy
We now turn to consider the future of foresight
and anticipatory democracy, and global,
national, and local needs.
Societies and nations need foresight pro-
cesses. Some of the national foresight efforts
mentioned earlier are ongoing, as are some
global foresight efforts to identify challenges
and opportunities and develop shared visions
and goals. For example, Jerry Glenn and col-
leagues in the Millennium Project do ongoing
foresight on global challenges and options, and
the Millennium Development Goals represented
a globally set vision in terms of audacious goals.
Some of these goals were achieved by 2015,
Bezold 9
some were not. These goals have been revised
and extended to 2030 to become the SDGs.
However, there are some trends in particu-
lar that foresight and anticipatory democracy
must consider and contribute to:
Work and the Economy Are Being
Job loss to automation will be significant.
Estimates range from 14.5 to 47 percent of
U.S. jobs that will be lost to automation by
2030. There will be new jobs created in the
process, but probably far fewer than those lost.
Furthermore, distributed manufacturing or 3D
printing will change many sectors, leading to a
“zero marginal cost economy” where the mar-
ginal cost of producing something is nearly
zero, and it sells at that price. AI will similarly
lead many services to be made available at
very low cost. This will reduce the income and
profit that can be generated in many sectors
(Rifkin 2014).
As a result of high structural unemploy-
ment, a universal basic income will be needed.
And the safety net will need to be restructured,
with tax reform and other revenue policies
developed. Simultaneously, it will become
more important that all, young and old,
develop their own sense of personal meaning
and that they are “contributing” throughout
their life, whether through paid work, raising
families, caring for older persons, or other
“Abundance Advances” Need to Be
Made a Reality
That is, the range of technologies for low-cost
in-home and in-community energy production
and storage; local manufacturing (3D printing)
of home goods, home building components or
whole homes; in-home and in-community food
production (from community gardening to
urban/vertical agriculture; from conventional
growing to aeroponics, cultured meat, 3D
printed food). These need to be developed and
deployed in sustainable and equitable ways.
IAF’s national scenario effort, Human
Progress and Human Services 2035, funded by
The Kresge Foundation has made me more
conscious of these intersecting challenges—
job loss to automation, a guaranteed basic
income, tax and finance reform, revised safety
net systems, including housing, and optimiz-
ing abundance advances—and all require sig-
nificant foresight.
What about the role and future of anticipatory
democracy (A/D) itself? A/D is foresight with
active citizen participation. One central part of
A/D are community future efforts. In the 1978
Anticipatory Democracy book, we documented
those, primarily in the United States (Bezold
1978). These community goals and futures
efforts have continued under various names, and
their frequency has ebbed and flowed around the
world. The Unites States, Canada, Latin
America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and
New Zealand all have had significant examples
of thoughtful community futuring activities and
goal setting. Some of these have focused on the
future of their community overall, others focused
on specific topics, such as health and wellness,
or the environment. In the last two decades,
equity and sustainability have been growing
themes in the analysis and goal setting of these
efforts, reflecting the “equity rising” trend.
We continue to observe the power of vision
and shared goals in many community efforts in
our Human Progress and Human Services
2035 project. We worked with eight state and
local areas to develop 2035 scenarios focused
on their communities. Two of them had devel-
oped widely shared community vision and
goals—San Antonio (
and San Diego (
They have real advantages over other commu-
nities in improving their residents’ well-being
and accelerating positive change.
Going forward as a nation, we will need to
have widespread participation in developing
shared vision and effective designs to deal
with the key challenges we are facing. This is
important for giving each of us, as citizens and
voters, thoughtful, meaningful choices to
reflect on, including how the transformations
we face—social, economic, and technologi-
cal—will be rolled out.
10 World Futures Review 00(0)
A/D needs to help ensure that economic and
social transformations work for all. This includes
having the opportunity, for all, to make mean-
ingful contributions. That is a significant task
going forward, particularly in the face of huge
unemployment, and the establishment of a guar-
anteed basic income. How might each of us pur-
sue opportunities and make our contributions?
In conclusion, I believe that humanity is
maturing. Foresight and A/D can help us indi-
vidually and collectively understand what
might happen, explore and invent positive
options, clarify our values, and develop shared
visions and goals. That is for me where A/D
and foresight should be and are headed. It has
been an honor, great fun, and very fulfilling to
have traveled on these paths over our forty
years at IAF.
Author’s Note
This article traces the history of anticipatory democ-
racy and foresight, and it provides a forecast. It
evolved from a presentation at a symposium cele-
brating the fortieth anniversary of the Institute for
Alternative Futures (IAF).
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of
interest with respect to the research, authorship,
and/or publication of this article
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following
financial support for the research, authorship, and/
or publication of this article: Funding for IAF’s 40th
Anniversary Symposium, for which this article was
developed, was provided by The Kresge Foundation
and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Bezold, Clement, ed. 1978. Anticipatory
Democracy. New York: Random House.
Bezold, Clement, William Rowley, and Andrew
Eisenberg. 2008. “Anticipating Opportunities
to Use Emerging Biomonitoring Technology to
Reduce Health Disparities.” Report to the AMA
Commission to End Health Disparities. http://alt-
Bezold, Clem, 2009. “Aspirational Futures”, Journal
of Futures Studies 13 (4): 81–90.
Committee on Social Trends, 1933, Recent Social
Trends in the United States, President’s
Research Committee on Social Trends.
Collins, Jim, and Jerry Porras. 1994. Built to Last,
Successful Habits of Visionary Companies.
New York: HarperCollins Business.
Dator, James Allen. 1978. “The Future of
Anticipatory Democracy.” In Anticipatory
Democracy, edited by Clement Bezold, 315–
28. New York: Random House.
Dator, James Allen, and Clement Bezold, eds. 1981.
Judging the Future. Honolulu: University of
Hawaii Press.
Fritz, Roger, and Irene Underwood. 2006. Nothing
to Fear, Nothing to Prove: Living an Aspiring
Life. St. Louis: Aspire Publishing.
Institute for Alternative Futures. 2017. Symposium
on Foresight and Creating the Futures We
Prefer: Highlights from IAF’s 40th Anniversary
Celebration, October 5.
Rifkin, Jeremy. 2014. The Zero Marginal
Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the
Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of
Capitalism. New York: St. Martins Press.
Schultz, Wendy Lynn, Clement Bezold, and Beatrice
P. Monahan. 1993. Reinventing Courts for the
21st Century: Designing a Vision Process—A
Guidebook to Visioning and Futures Thinking
within the Court System. Court Futures Project.
Williamsburg: National Center for State Courts.
Senge, Peter. 1990. The Fifth Discipline: The Art
& Practice of the Learning Organization. New
York: Random House.
Toffler, Alvin. 1970. Future Shock. New York:
Random House.
Toffler, Alvin. 1978. “Introduction on Future-
Conscious Politics.” In Anticipatory
Democracy, edited by Clement Bezold, xi–xxii.
New York: Random House.
Author Biography
Clem Bezold, PhD, Chairman and Senior Futurist of
the Institute for Alternative Futures, (IAF), established
IAF with Alvin Toffler and James Dator to encourage
“anticipatory democracy” and foresight. He has led
foresight efforts in the public and private sector on six
continents, for the largest government agencies and
corporations. He received a BSFS from Georgetown
University’s School of Foreign Service and his PhD in
political science from the University of Florida where
his dissertation was on foresight in the US Congress.
... Participatory process on the other hand prioritise the benefits of wide participation, through inclusion, critical direct engagement and empowerment (Beier et al., 2016;DeCrappeo et al., 2018;Elstub, 2014;Escobar, 2017). Anticipatory democracy complements these approaches and it involves enhanced participation in terms of shaping the future towards more equitable and sustainable futures (Bezold, 2019). It is essentially an approach which seeks to counter short-cycle politics by 'futurizing' democratic processes (Bezold, 2019). ...
... Anticipatory democracy complements these approaches and it involves enhanced participation in terms of shaping the future towards more equitable and sustainable futures (Bezold, 2019). It is essentially an approach which seeks to counter short-cycle politics by 'futurizing' democratic processes (Bezold, 2019). ...
... Participatory processes, on the other hand, prioritise the benefits of wide participation, through inclusion, direct engagement and empowerment. Anticipatory democracy complements these approaches and it involves enhanced participation in terms of shaping the future towards more equitable and sustainable futures (Bezold, 2019). It is essentially an approach that seeks to counter short-cycle politics by "futurising" democratic processes (Bezold, 2019). ...
... Anticipatory democracy complements these approaches and it involves enhanced participation in terms of shaping the future towards more equitable and sustainable futures (Bezold, 2019). It is essentially an approach that seeks to counter short-cycle politics by "futurising" democratic processes (Bezold, 2019). ...
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Imagining 2050 introduced a novel approach that we termed the ‘deliberative futures workshop’, which integrates deliberative dialogues into wider democratic and multi-stakeholder systems. Central to the project’s success was its ability to harness the extensive cross-disciplinary nature of the team and the trans-disciplinary nature of the research. The co-creation of the Deliberative Futures Toolkit together with local, scientific and policy communities, provides a resource that can be used by communities and policymakers. It is generating significant interest among a range of actors seeking to engage in a deliberative way with communities in climate action discourse and in co-developing and implementing climate action solutions. The toolkit includes a range of interactive tools that can be integrated into the deliberative process and that encourages dialogue through the use of visual future-oriented methodologies. We offer insights into pathways for transition at the local level and a multi-stakeholder appraisal of these pathways using the Delphi Method to ascertain areas of divergence and synergies between these visions and those of other groups, such as policymakers and researchers.
... While initially, futures study and practice generally operated out of a more positivist theoretical framework, it gradually shifted and expanded to consider and, more recently, has incorporated what is known as a "critical" futures lens in some circles, accounting much more for questions of power, plurality of location, justice and agency in considering issues of the future and who gets to decide what it looks like. At present, foresight practice is operating through globallyfocused collectives such as the United Nations (Miller, 2018), through a wide variety of corporate entities as part of their overall business strategy process (ARUP, 2017;Rohrbeck & Gemunden, 2011), and throughout governments across the globe (Bezold, 2019;Boston, 2017). Modern (late 20 th century forward) future work increasingly embraces chaos, systems and complexity theories, and "decentralized, massively distributed and inclusive" (Schultz, 2015, p. 330) approaches. ...
What is the future of the social work profession? This paper explores what being more future facing might look like for social workers/educators and introduces foresight as a useful and urgently needed framework for the profession. Contemporary realities like Covid-19 and uprisings associated with long-standing racial violence bring addedrelevance to the need to apply new ways of thinking, use new practical techniques, and strengthen a collective ability to see beyond the current cannon of ideas and approaches. These additions to the social work toolbox are much neededin a world full of inequity, change and turbulence. Utilization of a foresight lens has the opportunity to amplify and deepen the sociological and moral imagination, as well as the strategic effectiveness of the profession of social work now and in the years ahead. The paper ends with a call to action to amplify and evolve social work strengths to join the interdisciplinary community of those using forecasting methods to build a better future.
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Text dostupný na: Cieľom tohto príspevku je identifikovať kľúčové poznatky z budovania administratívnych a odborných štruktúr na podporu strategického výhľadu (foresight) vo verejnej správe. Text poukazuje na niektoré prierezové témy zo štátov a organizácií s rozvinutými štruktúrami na podporu strategického výhľadu, ktoré môžu slúžiť ako inšpirácia pre budovanie podobných štruktúr vo verejnej správe, o. i. aj v Slovenskej republike.
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The purpose of this paper is to identify key lessons about the successful institutionalisation of strategic foresight in government. The paper highlights some cross-cutting themes from countries and organisations with well-established government foresight systems that can serve as a guide for the institutionalisation of strategic foresight within other governments and organisations.
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Today's challenges-such as automation, climate change, ageing populations, pandemics, and deployment of artificial intelligence-have unpredictable and unintended consequences at both global and individual levels. Complex systems have become the norm rather than the exception. In this environment, "reactive" approaches to policy making have increasingly proven ineffective. Waiting until a crisis has struck to start imagining a way out of it can be far most costly (in both human and financial terms) than anticipating and preparing for the crisis before it occurs. As the health crisis due to the spread of COVID-19 has clearly demonstrated, we need to invest in anticipation. To bridge this gap, governments need a new approach to policymaking that enables them to effectively address complex problems and uncertainty with new tools and instruments. This approach should be future-oriented, but also involve an action-oriented, innovation function based on anticipation. Despite the fact that foresight tools are increasingly integrated into policymaking, governments often lack a practical understanding of how to anticipate uncertain futures but also how to act on them today to achieve desired outcomes. This paper introduces the concept of anticipation and discusses the emerging practice around anticipatory innovation governance as a broad-based capacity governments can use to spur on innovations (defined as novel to the context, implemented and value shifting products, services and processes) connected to uncertain futures in the hopes of shaping the former through the innovative practice. This makes it different from traditional anticipation approaches: the aim is to not only create knowledge about what might happen, but also shape and prepare for it through innovation. This paper provides an initial overview of anticipatory innovation governance within the context of academic and policy discussions on the future of policymaking. It discusses how such an approach turns the policymaking process on its head. Rather than policy determining the activities of individuals and groups within a system, individual experiments contribute to shaping policy and its effectiveness. This is done by outlining the parameters around which policymakers wish to make change and then by conducting one or more series of experiments testing and iterating on these parameters continuously with individuals or groups that would be affected and in a real world setting. As a result, governments are able to move towards their ideal future not by simply anticipating potential outcomes and developing innovative policy approaches to address them, but by taking action to ensure that these policy approaches work. This paper builds on an extensive literature review on complexity and policymaking and OECD work in the area of policy innovation, system thinking, anticipation, emerging technology and foresight. The paper also draws on the discussion with experts from national governments and international organisations conducted by the Observatory of Public Sector Innovation.
How we think about the future – including the future of cities and of health – is of great importance. As we enter the Anthropocene, we need to understand how environmental, social, political, cultural and technological forces may shape the future. Alternative futures or scenarios are a useful way to think about the future, and explore possible, plausible and preferable future conditions; the Futures Cone is one way to visualise these alternatives. Based on an understanding of the driving forces, alternative future scenarios may include extrapolative or ‘business as usual’ scenarios; challenging scenarios that include various forms of collapse; and visionary or transformational scenarios that build equity and sustainability. They also enable and encourage a consideration of the underlying values inherent in each scenario. Considering the implications for health and health equity within a scenario is important in our work, and in the context of healthy cities. Preferable futures, when they include commitment to creating them, become shared visions, a projection of values into the future. Rooted in the concept of ‘anticipatory democracy’, our approach has been to help people understand and imagine what may happen, but then to look at their preferred future and what it will take to get there.
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Futures work must help in better understanding and creating the future. This requires appropriate techniques for understanding changes in the macroenvironment, the operating environment and the organization or community at hand. It also requires a shared vision for the organization or community. The Institute for Alternative Futures has evolved "aspirational futures" as a set of techniques to enable this. While it shares similarities with other approaches to futures work, it emphasizes scenario development that includes likely, challenging and visionary scenarios.
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An overview of futures thinking, visioning, and strategic foresight designed for use in the USA court system.
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Anticipatory Democracy Anticipatory democracy is Alvin Toffler's prescription for humanity's response to the chal-lenges of the future in his 1970 bestselling book, Future Shock. A few years after Future Shock was published, he asked me to edit a book, Anticipatory Democracy, which reviewed experiments in looking ahead and involving the public. In his introduction Toffler wrote: "The simplest definition of anticipatory democracy ... is that it is a process for combining citizen participation with future consciousness" (Bezold, 1978). In Future Shock, Toffler argued that representative government was the key political technology of the industrial era and that new forms must be invented in the face of the crushing decisional over-load – or political future shock – that we were facing. Anticipatory democracy is a collection of tools and practices that allow the public to more effectively steer legislation. At the Institute for Alternative Futures, as we promoted anticipatory democracy we have developed "aspirational futures" approaches that help communities create the future they really want (Bezold, 2009). There are other approaches that can also enrich the visioning process. For example, the Causal Layered Analysis (CLA) approach emphasizes the importance of our cultural myths and world-views – the inherited narratives that we live out. The Integral viewpoint, using the Spiral Dynamics model, points out that many individuals live with different worldviews and that some do not value the worldviews of others. Becoming conscious of various levels of development is important for enhancing effective democracy. The evolution of anticipatory democracy, and the advances and setbacks it has faced over three decades, reinforces the importance of developing shared vision. The more effectively efforts have developed shared vision, particularly across diverse communities, the more successful these efforts have been. Whichever methods for creating a shared vision are selected, anticipatory democracy needs popular support and the support of top leadership. When the leader leaves, his or her successor often ignores the effort. Yet a number of programs have shown that significant involvement of the public can create a base of support that transcends specific administrations. One good example is Alternatives for Washington (AFW), a unique combination of leadership, novel involvement processes, media involvement, and advanced facilitation. More than 60,000 people took part in focus groups, surveys or local meetings. Print and broadcast media coop-erated in distributing educational material and surveys. Participants generated 11 alter-native futures and voted on their preferences. This produced a set of policy prefer-ences and the Governor then asked the public to take up the more difficult question of budget priorities (Stilger, 1978). One criticism of AFW was the lack of engagement of state legislators in the process – leading to a lack of responsiveness. Yet the AFW remains one of the most significant programs because of its depth of involvement, the range of alternatives it considered, and its focus on both policy and budget priorities. Five years after AFW ended we asked the state budget office how many of its recommendations had been put in place: it was about 80 per cent, in spite of the lack of active engagement of the legislature at the time and hostility from the next Governor. The program had generat-ed enough increase in public understanding to get the proposals passed even after a change of leadership (Bezold, 2006).
Designed to facilitate effective planning by state courts for the future, this guidebook is the heart of the State Justice Institute's "Vision for the Courts" project. Its primary purpose is building state court capacity to draft clear, inspiring, and compelling descriptions of a "preferred future"--a future that its authors and proponents want to create. The guidebook introduces future thinking and vision development. It highlights the interaction between vision thinking and organizational morale, productivity, and creativity. The guidebook also outlines procedures for developing an effective vision workshop and methods to continue and expand vision development beyond a workshop. The book contains six appendices, providing sample materials for a vision workshop, quotations about visioning the future, reference to additional works on vision, and a list of participants from the Courts Vision Process Design Workshop. The educational community would find the issues raised by this guidebook useful in a law-related education setting. (LH)
Anticipating Opportunities to Use Emerging Biomonitoring Technology to Reduce Health Disparities
  • Clement Bezold
  • Rowley
  • William
  • Andrew Eisenberg
Bezold, Clement, William Rowley, and Andrew Eisenberg. 2008. "Anticipating Opportunities to Use Emerging Biomonitoring Technology to Reduce Health Disparities." Report to the AMA Commission to End Health Disparities.
The Future of Anticipatory Democracy
  • James Dator
  • Allen
Dator, James Allen. 1978. "The Future of Anticipatory Democracy." In Anticipatory Democracy, edited by Clement Bezold, 315-28. New York: Random House.
The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism
  • Jeremy Rifkin
Rifkin, Jeremy. 2014. The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism. New York: St. Martins Press.
Introduction on Future-Conscious Politics
  • Alvin Toffler
Toffler, Alvin. 1978. "Introduction on Future-Conscious Politics." In Anticipatory Democracy, edited by Clement Bezold, xi-xxii. New York: Random House.
Built to Last, Successful Habits of Visionary Companies
  • Jim Collins
  • Jerry Porras
Collins, Jim, and Jerry Porras. 1994. Built to Last, Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. New York: HarperCollins Business.