It feels, right now, as if the only real certainty is uncertainty. But this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to think about the future. Once we abandon the idea of rigid predictions and focus instead on identifying key existing trends and drawing upon weak signals at the edges of current practice, it is possible to extrapolate to a wide range of possible futures. And it is vital that we do so, as 2022 sees philanthropy and civil society standing at a moment of potentially enormous change, which will require making choices and facing up to challenges.

One recurring theme as we look ahead is whether adaptations made through short-term necessity during the pandemic result in more fundamental longer-term change. Will the rise in remote working lead to a broader transformation in the ways we work? Will the enforced pivotal to digital that many CSOs have had to make lead to a step-change in the use of digital tools and engagement with technology issues? And will the shift many funders have made towards unrestricted or trust-based grantmaking models result in new norms within philanthropy?

Transformations in how we work could have major implications for philanthropy and civil society. In the short term, it may bring new opportunities to draw on a wider pool of talent, as traditional geographic barriers are removed. It will also bring new challenges, as organizations have to adapt to the practicalities of distributed ways of working. Longer term, there is also likely to be an erosion of the boundaries of organizational identity, as remote working makes us more accustomed to working across networks and outside of the traditional siloes of individual institutions. This will pose challenges for existing organizations, but also presents a huge opportunity to embed new norms of collaboration within philanthropy and get away from the emphasis on ‘egos and logos’ that has dominated in the past.

2022 may well be a year with long-term implications for civil society, so it is important that we do find ways of supporting organizations to engage with foresight.

Read the full article about predictions for the future of philanthropy by Rhodri Davies at Alliance Magazine.