ASAE ForesightWorks Drivers of Change: Society and Politics


Algorithmic Influence 

Information-shaping algorithms are increasingly powerful and playing an important role in shaping information flows. Bot networks, intrusive advertisers, and global political influence operations are gaining capacities to manipulate and influence individuals and societies. There is growing public concern about more subtle manipulations as well, such as content algorithms that personalize online interaction and enable tech companies to imperceptibly filter information and guide public attention. 

American Inequality 

Inequality in America is growing worse, though there are scattered signs of progress. Since the 1970s, income inequality and the share of wealth in the hands of the most advantaged 1 percent of Americans have been rising, though poverty has declined. Americans face a widening opportunity gap as a function of socioeconomic status, as well as significant racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic gaps in primary, secondary, and postsecondary education—though some of these gaps are shrinking. 

American Instability 

The American system of rules-based democracy is under strain. Polarization and distrust are pushing that system beyond gridlock toward potential breakdown, in which laws are not followed, election results are rejected, and political violence occurs on a growing scale. This could create a more uncertain and insecure operating environment for associations and their members. 

China’s World 

China’s growing economic power and influence will enable it to reshape expanding swathes of the world according to its own preferences. It will attempt to shift international structures and practices, with potential effects on trade, technology, law, standards, and business. East Asia will be the global center in many ways, even as Asian nations dispute China’s leadership and dominance. 

Declining Trust 

In the United States, trust in institutions—including government, media, science, and medicine—is falling, with important social, political, and economic implications. This decline in trust could fuel deeper political polarization and further erode social cohesion. 

Dismantling Systemic Racism 

The spotlight intensified on racial justice in 2020. Conversations about systemic racism were held in new spaces, including the workplace and across professional networks. Industries, professions, and organizations are exploring and implementing policies and programs, but change will be complex as implications are worked out on the ground. The challenge to dismantle systemic racism will remain a standing issue in public discourse. 

Population Health 

The concept of population health is reshaping approaches to health in the United States. Population health looks beyond delivering health services to patients and instead pushes healthcare providers to adopt a more systemic approach to identifying and influencing the determinants of community health. Managing population health will require new techniques to identify community health risks and the most effective, efficient community-health interventions. 

The Splintered Society 

Americans are self-segregating along multiple divides, both online and offline: politics, economic status, educational attainment, social life, consumer spending, media choices, and geography. This is being fueled by political, economic, and technological trends. 

Standards Under Pressure 

Standard setting will be marked by more conflict. Internationally, countries are using standards to advance competitiveness or dominance. Within countries, social issues are playing out in standards, making them more political in a polarized era. Associations will be participants in these conflicts—and also potential mediators. 

Transparent Organizational Ethics 

Organizations will face new kinds of scrutiny as drivers of transparency proliferate. Ubiquitous connectivity and information-capture, new sensing capabilities, and pervasive social media all enable hyper-transparency of organizations’ actions, necessitating actively managing reputation in a world increasingly concerned about ethical behavior. 

Updated 2022


Other ASAE ForesightWorks Topic Areas

Content, Learning, and Knowledge
Data and Technology
Demographics and Membership
Economic Conditions
Society and Politics
Workforce and Workplace