Futures Friday: Which Scenario Will Happen?

The Futures of Homelessness Part 13— Not Knowing is the Half the Battle

Photo by Damir Spanic on Unsplash

When creating scenarios, a common question is, “But which future is the right one?” It makes sense. Organizations spend a lot of time and money to better understand what will happen and to plan accordingly. Success, after all, is a lot easier to get to if you already know it will happen. As great as it would be to know the future, this is the wrong question to ask. First of all, futurists are not Tarot card readers and cannot know the future. What we can do however is help to make sure that there are fewer surprises along the way.

Looking back at the four futures of homelessness scenarios, we can see four very different outcomes, each with a few things that taken on their own may seem improbable. For example, a police state and forced encampments may be unimaginable for some. Will that happen? We don’t know. Could it happen? Hopefully now there is a plausible story of what that could look like and how we might get there.

Would the actual future ever look exactly like any of our scenarios? Probably not, but at least we are now able to recognize possibilities and hopefully see the signposts warning of us which scenario we are heading toward.

Let’s look at the current Covid pandemic. Were many people surprised that this happened and disrupted the world so quickly? Should they have been? There certainly were signs and warnings. Many experts warned of this exact scenario. The failure was not in experts to foresee the pandemic, it was a failure to expand the imagination of the world to understand a non-Hollywood pandemic scenario and what the effects could be.

If you still want to know which future will happen, remember this. You shape the future. Your ability to see trends, watch for signposts, create scenarios, and communicate your ideas is a powerful tool. Not baseless theories based on speculations, emotions, or biases but actual visions of the future based on research and reason. Then, with this knowledge, you can act.

In our 2x2 scenarios matrix, one of the axis we used was Social Attitudes. The other was Urban Planning. What you do in your community impacts each of these axis, from the conversations you have, to how you react when you see a homeless person. It will take determination and imagination — the ability to foresee a future and the work to build it. Not knowing the future makes us take responsibility for the future — we are not predestined toward any one fate.

What future do you want? What steps can you take? For me, I decided to write this series on exploring of the futures of homelessness. What will you do?

Next week we conclude this series on actual steps you can take to make a difference.



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JT Mudge

JT Mudge

I am an innovator, storyteller, futurist, and problem solver. I have a passion for sustainability and social justice. https://www.linkedin.com/in/jtmudge/