In 1989, a group of twelve people from North and South Carolina met at Wilmington, NC to ask the question, “how do we get people in the Southeast interested in thinking about the future.” From the dialogue of that weekend was birthed the idea of Communities of the Future (COTF). Over the next twenty-six years, a network of people in forty-seven states in the US and eleven other countries of the world has evolved …working in collaboration to develop new concepts, methods and techniques of community transformation. A virtual COTF Center was established in 1993 using the Internet to network those involved. The COTF Center continually “morphs” by adding “nodes” through collaborative agreements with existing organizations throughout the country when new COTF concepts and projects are created.
Based on the idea that we are living in a time of historical transformation, those involved with the Communities of the Future Network focus on developing new “capacities for transformation” capable of helping local areas prepare for a constantly changing, interconnected and increasingly complex society. Over the last decade, it has become apparent that many principles, concepts and methods of an Industrial Age society have become increasingly obsolete. Communities of the Future is an experiment in community research and development to identify and develop new approaches to how we do economic development, how we govern, how we educate/learn, how we lead, even how we think for a 21st century in constant transformation.
New ideas have begun to emerge which will be necessary to sustain a dynamic society. Concepts such as Transformational Learning, Future Forward College, Mobile Collaborative Governance, Creative Molecular Economy , Master Capacity Builder, “pH Ecosystem” for Preventive Healthcare, and Complex Adaptive Systems are emerging that challenge the very undergirding principles of Industrial Age institutions. Although certain standards in the short-run will still be important in key areas of life such as manufacturing and evaluation of best practices, the very nature of transformational change demands the ability to establish flexible rules and alternative ways of thinking. People and organizations will need to learn how to adapt to the uncertainty and ambiguity of an emerging society based on principles of self-organization, interdependency, deep collaboration and continuous transformation.
The Center for Communities of the Future emphasizes futures generative dialogue of “early adapters”(those people who are open to new ideas ). Once new, transformational ideas are identified through the facilitation of small networks of creative thinkers, local “process projects” and multiple parallel processes are established to introduce one or more new “capacities for transformation” into the thinking and activities of local communities to see what resonates and what is inappropriate. COTF is pioneering new concepts, methods and techniques of adaptive planning and community transformation to be used in parallel to other basic strategic planning models. The goal is to spread “capacities for transformation” throughout any organization/community in a dynamic and flexible way. It is in this way that the concepts and methods of COTF reflect the use of ecological principles of “complex adaptive systems” found in framing initial conditions, self-organization, connecting diverse ideas, people and proccesses, emergence, systemic transformation and feedback.