Over the course of this disorienting pandemic and the multiple reckonings around social equality that have been roiling America, I’ve led a shift in focus at Dot Connector Studio toward forecasting and scenario planning. We’ve worked in tandem with our clients to understand the longer-term trends that are shaping society, and to imagine more just and hopeful futures.

Now, I’m happy to share just one of our projects with the Guild of Future Architects (GoFA), an organization that has been central to informing our new futurism practice, led by my long-time collaborator Kamal Sinclair. In 2020 I helped to launch GoFA’s Medium publication, and to edit their hybrid speculative fiction and insights project, 20 Decades of 2020.

In April, they released a report that I edited, Portals to Beautiful Futures: Trends to Watch in 2021 and Beyond. A collaboration with Omidyar Network, this beautiful and brain-stretching publication flows from a yearlong process of imagining life beyond the pandemic. 

What makes this different is that it’s not another tech-focused trends report, or a contrasting best-case/worst-case set of possible scenarios. Instead, the narratives, speculative artifacts, and proposed futures in Portals are drawn from the hopes and imaginations of more than 1,000 people who participated in GoFA’s virtual sessions, which explored how the systems that shape our lives can become more just and inclusive.

The report is organized around four provocations:

  1. What if shared well-being became the standard of success for our nations?
  2. Are we ready to move from an era that rewards extraction to one that prioritizes regeneration?
  3. How will we move from an era of destabilizing information into an age of trusted wisdom?
  4. Can we dismantle industrial-age silos between work, home, education, play, and community?

Each section offers a fictional story set in a future related to that provocation, related trends, an analysis of the architecture of the historic and current systems, and a blueprint for a better future. The report also invites readers to consider a “spectrum of possibility” related to each provocation, testing their own faith in the ability of policymakers, innovators, corporations, and civil society to enact changes that will benefit us all.

Our hope is that this report will create an opening for both debate and dreaming — to provide fodder for dialogue and a respite from the past year’s sometimes overwhelming pessimism. 

As Omidyar Network’s Exploration and Future Sensing Fellow David T. Hsu writes: “You will still find trends on these pages, but they’re embedded in an experimental document that centers imagination and a sense of play. Does it work? You tell us. We know it’s far from perfect. But it tries to contain a fatal flaw that infects so much of our relationship with the future: fear.”

Download the full report here. Intrigued? Let’s talk!