|by James L. Morrison|
[Note: This is a re-formatted manuscript that was originally published in
On the Horizon, 1992, Summer, 1-2, 5-6. It is posted here with permission
from Jossey Bass
The United Way Strategic
Institute's Environmental Scanning Committee has just released the 1992-93 edition of What
Lies Ahead. In this publication, the Committee updated the nine forces of change in
American society identified in their 1989 publication, What Lies Ahead: Countdown to
the 21st Century. These forces of change, called "Change Drivers" by the
Committee, are summarized as follows:
ChangeDriver 1: The Maturation of America.
The population continues to age, with the consequence that U.S. culture is shifting from a
youth orientation to one focused on aging. The age groups that will demand the most
attention are the 35- to 54-year-olds and those over 80 (the fastest-growing segment of
the population). Political activism, reflecting an older population, will be pragmatic and
The growth of the U.S. workforce will
continue to slow, implying a more mature and experienced workforce. New technologies and
changing job conditions will challenge workers. Employers will increasingly offer older
workers phased retirement, flexible work schedules, and short time projects. More middle
aged workers will start their own firms as opportunities for advancement are increasingly
Not only is the population maturing, but the physical infrastructure of the country
(roads, bridges) is aging, and will demand more and more attention in this decade.
Government will increasingly join with business to cope with infrastructure repair costs.
ChangeDriver 2: The Mosaic Society.
The diversity of America's population will become more pronounced, and, perhaps,
increasingly polarized between the educational and economic haves and have nots. It is
imperative that Americans and their institutions recognize and support the value of
diverse cultures within the society. Racial and ethnic tensions will remain high. Schools
will implement alternative options like magnet schools, year-round schools, and
alternative teacher certification to address issues of quality, cost-effectiveness and
teacher shortages. Minorities and women will comprise a larger proportion of the
workforce. The ability to manage a diverse workforce will remain important due to its
increasingly multilingual and multicultural nature. There will be greater availability of
child-care benefits, including parental leave and flexible work hours. Workers will have
more benefits, but will share in bearing their costs. Finally, minorities will continue to
seek greater political influence commensurate with their numbers.
ChangeDriver 3: Redefinition of Individual and Societal Roles.
There will be a continuing shift of responsibilities between societal sectors and between
individuals and institutions. Reforms in public education will continue to emphasize the
decentralization of authority to teachers and parents (school-based management) and choice
programs. The pressure from individuals for empowerment to act for themselves will
increase. (The focus on wellness illustrates a movement from a problem-based care system
to one requiring more personal responsibility for eating and living "right.")
Government support of human services will continue the pattern established in the 1980s,
when authority and financial responsibility passed from the federal government to states
and localities. Funding increases are not likely, given growing fiscal problems at all
levels of government. There will be continued privatization of government services,
including prisons and social services. By the end of the 1990s, there will be greater
focus on individual self-sufficiency and less reliance on institutions. Corporate
downsizing will accelerate while offering greater work responsibility, equity stakes, and
reduction of bureaucracy. The need for a flexible work force, one that can quickly adapt
to market changes, will be increasingly important as organizations become flatter (have
fewer layers of management). Union membership will continue to decline. Alternative forms
of employee representation, such as regulation and litigation, will continue to emerge.
ChangeDriver 4: The Information-Based Economy.
Technological advances will continue. Mass customization will typify the '90s--from
customized bicycles to software with object programming. Instructional technology will
continue to enhance education as a teaching and learning aid. Concern about the scientific
literacy of the population will continue to increase. The telephone will increasingly be
used as the gateway to sophisticated communications services. Video, audio, and data
transmission will increasingly be integrated into a single fiber optic telephone system.
The mobile communications environment will continue to develop as portable phones,
facsimile machines, beepers, satellites and computers make two-way, 24-hour accessibility
anywhere in the world. The schism between info-rich and info-poor will continue to grow.
Changing employment conditions and new technologies will continue to challenge workers.
The erosion of individual privacy will continue to grow.
ChangeDriver 5: Globalization.
Movement of products, capital, technology, information, and ideas around the world will
continue at a record pace. The democratization of Eastern Europe and Russia and free trade
agreements along with international investments in business and real estate around the
world increasingly pull all nations into the global economy. However, economic and civil
strife is likely to continue in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, causing the
inflow of foreign investment to remain small. Regional economic blocs will increase in
number and in economic importance. International migration, both legal and illegal, will
accelerate in the 1990s. Prosperity is increasingly dependent on trade with, and the
economic well-being of other nations. Greater international competition for markets will
continue. Global leadership in science and technology will determine economic leadership.
ChangeDriver 6: Economic Restructuring.
Large-scale economic transformation of American business brought about by global economic
competition, deregulation, rapidly changing technologies, and diverse and changing
consumer tastes will continue. Large firms will accelerate the downsizing of their
management staffs. The formation of low-skill jobs rather than high-skill jobs will
increase. The number of home-based workers will increase, as will workplace options such
as satellite offices. Increasing numbers of immigrants will be highly skilled tec
hnological and scientific workers.
ChangeDriver 7: Personal and Environmental Health.
Quality of life versus economic well-being will be a dilemma of the 1990s. We are
increasingly concerned about air, water, and food quality. In the U.S., there is continued
questioning of the quality of, and access to, the nation's health-care system. Health-care
costs will accelerate the issue of cost sharing between employers and employees and will
increase the probability of strikes over benefits offerings. The AIDS epidemic will become
increasingly critical. Concern about substance abuse and in resolving the issue of
long-term care provisions will continue. Alternative forms of health care delivery, such
as holistic medicine and self-help groups, will continue to grow in popularity. With
respect to the environment, the concern about the connection between energy types and use
and environmental crises will increase, with corresponding demands on elected officials to
focus on environmental issues. Finally, the economic consequences of global environmental
climate change will receive increased attention.
ChangeDriver 8: Family and Home Redefined.
There will be growing acceptance of nontraditional family groups. Men and women living
having children out of marriage, single women having children by choice, gay and lesbian
men and women having open relationships, and "friends" just living together are
being accepted by courts, employers and society in general as "families." Many
observers see the 1990s as a decade when Americans will return to the simple life,
embracing home and family. The divorce rate is expected to decline. Multigenerational
households and families will increase. Leisure time will continue to grow in importance.
Home is being transformed into an office by more and more people (28% of the U.S.
workforce works at home).
ChangeDriver 9: Rebirth of Social Activism.
Americans are becoming more concerned about social issues. The ACE-UCLA annual survey of
entering college freshmen found the highest level of involvement in social-action
activities in history. The 1990s will be a decade of people wanting "community
action" that produces results. Racial and ethnic tension will remain high; violent
crimes are expected to increase. The poverty rate is likely to increase as will the number
of homeless Americans. There will be an increased recognition of the importance of
children's physical and mental wellness-- especially in relation to the provision of
family support services--a recognition that will become integral to public education
Funding for research in the following areas is likely to increase: gerontology; the roots
of crime (poverty, substance abuse, etc.); AIDS education, treatment and prevention; and
the efficacy of alternative forms of health-care delivery. Increasing attention will be
given to curricular programs on multicultural education and programs to reduce racial and
ethnic tensions, as well as continuing education programs for those wanting to start their
own businesses. Curriculum committees will spend more time on reviewing graduate and
undergraduate programs vis-a-vis their relevance to preparing graduates to function in an
increasingly multicultural, multilingual, and diverse workplace facing increasing global
economic competition. Provosts will increase their efforts to train faculty in
instructional technologies to enhance learning, including distance education. They will
also take advantage of the growing interest among business, organized labor, and
government to form partnerships. Advances in computer and telecommunications technologies
will continue to offer the potential for improvements in administrative functions
vis-a-vis data collection, analysis, communication, and program assessment. We must do all
of this with little increase in government funding.