History of COTF

Communities of the Future—History and Overview

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 Network continually “morphs” by adding “nodes” through collaboration with existing people and organizations throughout the country when new COTF concepts and methods are created.

Based on the idea that we are living in a time of historical transformation, the Communities of the Future Network has focused on a new concept of leadership called Master Capacity Builders to develop 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 create  a community-based system of preventive healthcare, how we lead, and especially how we think.

New ideas have begun to emerge which will be necessary to sustain a dynamic society. Concepts such as Transformational Learning, Mobile Collaborative Governance & Creative Molecular Economy, and pH Ecosystem for preventive healthcare are emerging which challenge the very undergirding principles of Industrial Age institutions. Although standards 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 and continuous innovation.

The Center for Communities of the Future emphasizes “futures generative dialogue” of “early adapters” (people who are open to new ideas). Once new ideas are identified through the facilitation of small networks of creative thinkers, local “futures projects” 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 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 self-organization, continuous innovation and emergence. The COTF web site at www.communitiesofthefuture.org provides a central learning location for one to be introduced to COTF concepts and methods.