Person looking at globe asking questions about the future of the voluntary sector


What the Future Holds

I attended the NAVCA conference earlier this month (NAVCA is the national infrastructure body for local voluntary action). The day provided much food for thought about what the future might hold for the voluntary sector, and how it affects our priorities.

As a facilitator working to help organisations to get their heads around the implications of future trends – for their current and future clients – as well as for themselves –  I was particularly interested in this year’s theme ‘Future Forward: future proofing local social action’.

One of the speakers was Mathew Lawrence (with one ‘t’!) from the Institute of Public Policy Research. He presented this report: 

Future Proof:  Britain in the 2020s.

In his presentation, he identifies 5 key trends which are going to matter to us:

  1. A demographic tipping point: particularly ageing population.
  2. An economic world transformed: a more fragile world order.
  3. Brexit – the aftershock: as well as the implications of parliamentary attention and resources getting tied up in negotiations.
  4. Technological transformationbetween Star Trek and the Matrix: scary exponential growth in technologies – computers, artificial intelligence, communications, the Internet of Things …
  5. The shock of the Anthropocene – climate change, resource depletion.

‘Together, these trends are going to reshape how we live and work, reorganise our social, economic and political institutions, and redistribute power and reward in society’.

Did you know that at currents rates of soil degradation, the world has only 60 harvests left according to the UN? DEFRA estimates it may be even fewer in some parts of the UK.

We might be able to understand possibilities of robotic automation in manufacturing – but what does this mean for services?

Thinking about the ageing population has been around for a while. But in the 2020s, numbers of over 85s will triple while the working age population will remain static.

My question to Mathew was:

“With our human intelligence, many of us struggle to get our heads around how multiple trends impact each other (and us). How should we try to plan and map, rather than just being overwhelmed or moving forward as if tomorrow will be like today?”

Mathew’s advice was to focus on the trends we understand best, such as the ageing population. Apply ourselves to getting a grip on the implications.

As we move into the next year, what does the changing UK demographic mean for future volunteering? Levels of needs, priorities for action? Let’s get our heads together and try to work it out.


Happy New Year!

You can see any of the presentations from the day on the NAVCA YouTube channel.

Karen Morton, The Capability Company, December 2017