The Institute for Alternative Futures (IAF) and The Kresge Foundation recently release the new publication Human Services and Human Progress 2035, which explores what human progress, human need, and human services will be in the U.S. in 2035.

As detailed in A National Imperative: Joining Forces to Strengthen Human Services in America, a report commissioned by the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities and the American Public Human Services Association and partially funded by The Kresge Foundation, the human services sector is crucial to American society and the economy. It includes over 100,000 organizations; provides $200 billion in services; and builds foundational supports that contribute to the health and well-being of individuals, families, and communities. Yet it faces significant uncertainty about its operations, funding, value, and role.  

To explore these issues and their implications for the sector, The Kresge Foundation and IAF partnered with thought leaders to develop scenarios describing expectable, challenging, and visionary futures of human services in the U.S.  

Human Progress and Human Services 2035 scenarios considered the macro trends in the economy, employment, technology, health, and the environment, as well as the driving forces shaping human service both in general, and in key areas; e.g., aging, behavioral health, children and family, disability, food and nutrition, housing and income supports.  

Scenarios offer different stories describing how the future may unfold, which can be used to bound uncertainty into a limited number of paths. They reveal what decisions and strategies made today will help the sector achieve a preferred future.  

  • Scenario 1: Reductions and Rebounds. Explores the expectable or most likely for human services, though not necessarily preferred 
  • Scenario 2: Navigating Unending Challenges. Explores some of the issues and problems the nation and human services might face 
  • Scenario 3: Building Human Potential. Explores a visionary future changing hearts and mind with a guaranteed basic income, increased equity, greater self-sufficiency, and integrated human serving supports 
  • Scenario 4: Thriving Communities. Explores a visionary future changing hearts and mind with a living wage, increased equity, greater self-sufficiency, and integrated human serving supports 

In addition to developing national human service scenarios, IAF has worked with the human services community in several states to develop 2035 scenarios for their specific places and organizations: 

  • Mississippi 
  • Connecticut 
  • Montgomery County, Maryland 
  • San Diego County 
  • Jefferson County, Colorado 
  • Memphis, Tennessee 
  • San Antonio 
  • Richmond, Virginia 

Three additional communities will be identified in the fall 2018. 

Other local, state, and national leaders may use the scenarios to consider uncertainties, trends, and forces that will shape human services and their organizations. 

The national Human Progress and Human Services 2035 scenarios and recommendations as well as those from the eight state and local efforts are available online.