If you knew the future, what would you do?

This is a trick question because there is no single, predestined future. The future emerges as a blend of external forces (events or trends beyond your control that impact you, such as a hurricane, health diagnosis or unseen political uprising) and internal forces (actions you take to impact your future or the future of your community, such as learning a new skill or adopting a new technology).

No one knows the future. But we can imagine plausible futures, reasonable scenarios that could happen in the coming years.

During her keynote address at the Association’s Annual Meeting, Rebecca Ryan, a futurist, author and economist, will discuss how municipal leaders can be ready for the challenges of the future. She will share some of the tools and techniques futurists use to look into the future and to imagine what their communities could become under various conditions.

Rebecca Ryan 

Rebecca Ryan

Looking at the forces and trends already at play in South Carolina, it’s interesting to consider:

  • What resources are critical to our communities’ future? Are any of these resources being threatened now? Can we imagine scenarios in which they are threatened?

  • What technologies could vastly improve the lives of South Carolinians? What technologies exist today that could forever alter our future? What investments are we willing to make in those technologies?

  • What will life be like in South Carolina a generation from now if current demographic forces continue to play out? For example, by 2030, the 65 and over population is expected to make up 22 percent of the state’s population compared to only 12 percent in 2000. How will local government respond to an aging population? Do we have enough working people in our communities to remain attractive as cities for all ages?

  • What will residents expect of local government in the next ten years? Twenty years? How will that impact how we serve them?

One other question worth considering:

What will your community be like in 2035, one generation from now, if you do nothing? If you simply watch and wait as current trends play out and do nothing to respond, what kind of legacy will you leave?

In local government, the day-to-day challenges seem endless. But great leaders know that they have to invest time in the future, too. They must carve out some time to think about the kind of cities our children and grandchildren will inherit—and build proactively toward that.

Rebecca quotes one of her mentors in saying, "You lead your life, or your life leads you." Her Annual Meeting talk will focus on what it takes to lead a community using strategic foresight.

Community Visioning: What happens when business leads?

Rebecca Ryan will present an additional session at the Annual Meeting exploring what happens when business steps up to lead a community’s visioning process. Attendees will learn about the Charleston Metro Chamber’s VisionLab process and how to apply a similar model in other communities.