ASAE ForesightWorks Drivers of Change: Economic Conditions


Economic trends at both the macro and the micro level will create change across industries, including in the association sector. Governments and large corporations are driving change from the top, while consumers’ purchasing and philanthropic choices suggest individual responses to economic conditions. The drivers of change below explore how economic shifts could affect diverse industries, the workforce, and the associations that represent them.

Beyond Recycling
Added in 2020
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
Updated in 2021
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.

Evolving Cities
Added in 2021
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
Updated in 2019
Existing global power structures are breaking down as new centers arise and power diffuses. Power is shifting among nation-states and flowing to several kinds of transnational and sub-national organizations and groups. This will change the operating environment for associations, especially those with cross-border reach.

Healthcare Disruption
Updated in 2021
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
Updated in 2020
Philanthropy is facing years of flux in the 2020s, as the giving infrastructure expands in new directions, regulations change, controversy grows over the rising influence of wealthy “megadonors,” public-private partnerships multiply, and new generations mature into donors. These shifts will present associations with new opportunities to connect with donors, as well as new challenges.

The Productivity Paradox
Updated in 2019
In recent decades, growth in economic productivity has failed to match growth rates of the post-WWII era despite exponential advances in computing and the rise of the information economy. Economists are concerned that today’s information technology (IT) innovations are not economically transformational and are unable to support higher rates of productivity growth. Low productivity growth has contributed to a contracting middle class and marginal wage growth for a majority of workers.

The Sharing Economy
Updated in 2019
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 firms in many industries. The sharing economy portends a shift in the balance between access and ownership, with owners getting new opportunities to extract rents, 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
Added in 2020
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
Updated in 2019
The rules of global trade are up in the air, with growing uncertainty about whether the trend toward global trade harmonization will be maintained. The United Kingdom and the United States have begun renegotiation of once-settled trade policies that supported economic globalization, pushing the world trade system toward economic nationalism.