In the face of what the UK’s Ministry of Defense recently characterized as “unprecedented acceleration in the speed of change, driving ever more complex interactions between [diverse] trends,” the longer-term future of philanthropy, and the success of individual programs, are at risk as never before.
Philanthropy is already trying to deliver on a hugely ambitious vision of a better future. Taking the Sustainable Development Goals as one marker, this includes, within just over a decade, ending poverty, ending hunger, and delivering universal healthcare. Progress is struggling to match aspirations: the UN has found that globally, hunger is on the rise again and malaria rates are up due to antimicrobial resistance.
With the accelerating pace of change, new trends are set to bring huge opportunities – and threats – often both at once. Two examples: new technologies in the field of synthetic biology, and the fourth Industrial Revolution. Other trends – climate change, demographic shifts, democratic rollback – may be familiar, but their pace, trajectory, and impact remain radically uncertain.