I am going out on a limb to suggest ten predictions we will likely see in 2012. Some of these are extensions of current trends and some are new; some are sector-specific and some will impact all sectors.
An Increase in Intergenerational Leadership
A mix of baby boomers, Generation Xers, and Millennials will comprise more nonprofit leadership teams. This shift will lead to changes in the way people lead and manage across the sector, particularly as the younger generations begin to occupy the CEO role and put their own stamp on organizational culture.
More Diversity Among Leaders
In particular, we will see more Latino and Asian immigrant/first-generation leaders join the ranks of management. This will lead to cultural challenges as newcomer leaders bring their unique life experiences and work values to their roles.
More Use of Voice Recognition
The keyboard and mouse will become optional as good artificial intelligence (AI) interfaces finally arrive. The maturation of AI will lead to the sound of the human voice replacing the sound of typing in many offices, challenging work-space design. Discussions of etiquette for speaking to the phone in public will augment discussions of etiquette for speaking on the phone in public.
Social Media Selectivity
The nonprofit sector will begin to move beyond the current be-everywhere, do-everything social media craze as people tire of the need to keep up multiple social media news feeds and settle into a deeper use of fewer tools. The diffuse effort nonprofits currently put into social media will begin to narrow and deepen; as a result, the value they receive from these efforts will increase.
A Switch from Strategic Planning to Business Planning
The weak economy will drive increasingly conservative and thoughtful decision-making at both foundations and nonprofits. Before undertaking bold and risky moves, nonprofit leaders and their investors will want to conduct additional due diligence. This will lead to more economically focused business planning, replacing traditional strategic planning.
More Capacity-Building Cohorts
Foundations will see growing numbers of their grantees struggling to sustain their organizations. This will spur interest in capacity building across their portfolios and lead to cohort-based approaches to strengthening nonprofit leadership and management. Funders will see these as ways to stretch their dollars and gain greater leverage for their investments amid growing demands and a weak economy.
More Sector-Crossing Employees
Massive cutbacks at all levels of government will drive large numbers of experienced public employees to seek nonprofit jobs. These workers will expect a more structured work environment and better benefits than nonprofits normally offer, but those collecting pensions may be able to accept a significant pay cut in the transition.
More Sector Blurring
L3Cs and B Corporations will gain popularity. They will increasingly find a place within state legal frameworks, making them more visible across the country. Better access to capital will give these new entrants an advantage in scaling up over traditional nonprofits that rely must on donations and grants to grow.
Electoral Politics Will Distract Us
The 2012 general election will consume America but not necessarily enlighten us. Distortions and ad hominem attacks may be the order of the day for our first general election under the Citizens United unlimited corporate money rule. Causes that nonprofits care about—such as civil rights, human rights, poverty, the social safety net, education—stand to be lost in the cacophony.
The Occupy Movement Will Gain Legs
The growing populist movement across the country will focus election year attention on “the other 99 percent.” The focus will likely remain abstract and untied to specific issues, but it may be strong enough to fight moneyed interests to a standstill. The 2012 election results may be inconclusive, and we may expect the 2014 election battle to begin the day the new Congress opens.
Do you agree or disagree? What are your social sector predictions for the new year?