Global Trends 2020

Our theory of change

In this edition we connect the global to the local, providing a way to understand how human interaction shapes – and is shaped by – our world.

Our theory looks at how change operates across different timeframes, through longer-term macro forces, medium-term trends in society and shorter-term signals – which express real behavioural change.

Macro forces are the long-term shifts which act across all markets and societies. These form the context against which people and organisations act. We have identified six macro forces: dynamic populations; growing inequality and opportunity; geopolitical tensions; the fragile planet; technological tipping points; and the data world.

At the other end of the scale, signals are localised and short-term expressions of change. They can occur at the level of a single country, or a community within a specific area, and will vary dependent on the target audience.

In the middle, we have trends. These are the core of this report.These are cultural attitudes and values which emerge from the interaction between people and the planet. Trends can emerge, enter into mainstream culture, and fall out of practice in response to macro forces and signals. Importantly, this model acknowledges the role of feedback loops in terms of understanding the complexity in our world. Macro forces impact trends and signals directly – the arrows on the top half of our diagram show the directions of top-down change. But the decisions made by individuals can also ladder up to impact the world through a bottom-up response. Emerging signals of change impact wider trends in society, which over time can have an impact on our planet.

Our model, reflecting the circular nature of change, offers a useful framework to understand the complexity of the 21st Century from either a top-down or bottom-up perspective. Overleaf we provide greater detail on the macro forces we see acting on the world, before revealing the trends we have unearthed through this year’s Global Trends survey.

New platforms for engagement and storytelling: will coronavirus accelerate the role of videogaming?

As we survey the world after the first part of COVID-19, we can see massive behavioural changes in an expansive range of areas.  Which changes will stick are not certain, but where they involve an acceleration of an existing trend we think it is more

Nasa develop a necklace that warns wearers not to touch their face

Post-Coronavirus, many people are consciously trying to touch their face less – but finding it hard to break an unconscious habit. NASA have developed a necklace that vibrates when wearers go to touch their face, nudging them away from the unhygienic behaviour