ASAE ForesightWorks Drivers of Change: Economic Conditions


American Wealth Gaps 

Wealth varies greatly in the United States. The Boomer generation has amassed significant assets over their lifespan while the relative lack of wealth accumulation among younger Americans is affecting family formation and housing demand. Disparities in wealth across racial and ethnic lines persist. These wealth gaps may drive political attitudes and attempts by younger generations to redefine a satisfying life. 

Beyond Recycling 

The old recycling paradigm is becoming untenable and will increasingly be displaced by new holistic approaches to product design that minimize waste across the product lifecycle. New designs could emphasize reusability, with durable packaging that can be reused or refilled. Through circular design, other products could be developed to be easily “de-manufactured” at the end of the lifecycle and turned into useful inputs for other products. 

Climate Change Mitigation 

Climate mitigation activity is ramping up rapidly around the world, driven by escalating climate effects and renewed government efforts. Governments are setting ambitious emissions-reduction goals, the private sector is treating climate as a strategic issue, and wealthy funders are starting to make impactful investments. Climate change will be a front-burner issue throughout the 2020s, affecting associations and their members in profound ways. 

Digitizing Money 

The idea of money is evolving past the idea of at currency—money issued and backed by governments. Traditional currency is competing with digital money (credit cards, digital vouchers, and cryptocurrencies) even as concerns about equitable access to digital money grow. Interest in new money concepts such as cryptocurrency and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) reflects a shift from faith in government to a trust in the underlying algorithms of digital assets. 

Evolving Cities 

Urban areas are changing under the influence of unfolding economic, environmental, technological, and social trends. COVID-19 has spawned many acute effects, some of which are proving persistent—especially those involving where people work. City shapes and density are shifting, but the appeal of cities—for economic, social, cultural, and other qualities—remains. Meanwhile, the effects of climate change on cities are becoming immediate rather than theoretical. 

Global Power Shifts 

Existing global power structures are under strain. Conflict is rising as power shifts among nation-states and flows to transnational and sub-national organizations and groups, driven by the rise of non-Western powers and technological trends. This will change the operating environment for associations, especially those with cross-border reach. 

Healthcare Disruption 

New players will inject a dose of capitalism into American healthcare, shifting healthcare to a more retail-like experience. Healthcare delivery will be further unbundled and disintermediated as to non-traditional actors and businesses move into the space, and as technology enables care anywhere. 

Philanthropy Reshaped

Demographic and political changes, loss of trust in institutions, and the growth of donor-advised funds and impact investing will drive shifts in the channels, targets, and geographic focus of American philanthropy. These shifts will offer opportunities for associations to access new resources, engage new members, and create new partnerships. 

The Sharing Economy 

The peer-to-peer exchange of goods or services will continue to grow globally and expand into new areas of commerce, posing a greater challenge to incumbent rms in many industries. The sharing economy portends a shift in the balance between access and ownership, with owners getting new opportunities to extract value from their goods, and users getting new opportunities to use goods and services with more flexibility. The sharing economy can blur the lines between commercial operations and person-to-person exchanges, creating a growing regulatory challenge. 

The Surveillance Economy

Consumers and businesses are being deeply and continuously surveilled in pursuit of more effective advertising, security, personalization, and convenience. An ever-expanding market collects, analyzes, and sells consumer data—and this is changing the relationship between companies and consumers, as selling data can be as or more profitable than selling consumer goods. Controversies over surveillance will intensify and associations will face shifts in regulations, public perception, and member needs. 

Trade in Transition

The patterns of global trade are shifting, with long-established trends slowing or reversing. Globalization is faltering, battered by international and domestic forces. Geopolitics increasingly intrudes into trade as countries seek to protect their supply chains from security threats. Domestic politics will push the world trade system toward economic nationalism in more countries. Associations’ member organizations will be buffeted by these changes, as will globally active associations. 

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