ASAE ForesightWorks Drivers of Change: Society and Politics


Technological, economic, and demographic changes have had profound effects on the social and political landscape. People readily broadcast their own values and look for similar transparency—and alignment—from others. The drivers of change below are defining the future contours of society and politics in the United States.

Algorithmic Politics
Updated in 2018
The power of algorithms to influence politics—shaping the way information flows, manipulating individuals, and even participating as bots—is increasing. There is growing public concern that the same internet algorithms that customize content and personalize online interactions enable tech companies to imperceptibly filter information, alter and focus attention, and provide conduits for messaging micro-demographic niches.

American Inequality
Updated in 2020
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 one percent of Americans have been rising, even as 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
Added in 2021
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
Added in 2020
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
Updated in 2018
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
Added in 2021
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.

Ethical Consumption
Updated in 2020
Ethical consumption is being driven by younger generations’ concerns about social and environmental issues, and aided by a plethora of resources that provide granular detail about the provenance of products, and the behaviors of producers. Ethical consumption is also increasingly concerned with supporting companies whose activities reflect buyers’ political views.

Population Health
Added in 2019
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
Updated in 2021
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
Added in 2019
Standard setting will be marked by more conflict. Internationally, more countries are using standards to advance competitiveness or dominance via standards. 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
Updated in 2020
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 motivated by demands for ethical organizational behavior.