Driving Forces of Future Change

A Greater Madison Vision’s mission is to develop a shared vision and plan for future growth in the region. To do that, we are engaging leaders, stakeholders, and the general public in a variety of ways throughout 2017 and into next year. We want to understand what kind of region people want to see in a generation’s time and how we should respond to and shape future change.

How do we understand, anticipate, and shape the future?

While nobody can truly predict the future, the act of thinking critically about it can help us better prepare for challenges and opportunities that may arise. That thinking is central to our new survey and workshop series on “Driving Forces and Possible Futures!” Check out the content below to learn about driving forces,

What are Driving Forces?

As you may have read in one of our previous posts, we are interested in trends or developments that will shape the future of the Greater Madison Region. Based on a previous online survey, more than 6 first-round driving forces group discussions, and an extensive review of the research and practice of this type of regional planning across the country, we have identified 18 major driving forces across 5 general categories.

What are the Greater Madison Region’s driving forces?

Social and Demographic

  • Doubling of the population of older residents
  • Increasing racial and ethnic diversity
  • Increasing income inequality
  • Changing housing and transportation preferences
  • Urbanization – continued shift from rural to urban



  • Jobs increasingly replaced by automation
  • Autonomous vehicles become commonplace
  • Rise in online delivery of education



  • Climate change
  • Continued stress from runoff and invasive species in region’s lakes and rivers
  • Declining biodiversity and function of natural systems



  • Increase in online shopping
  • Continued agricultural consolidation
  • Housing costs continue to rise faster than incomes
  • Shift to more renewable, distributed energy



  • Continued polarization and conflict
  • Weakening of democratic institutions and norms
  • Increasing global instability

What do we want to learn next?

In early 2018, A Greater Madison Vision will be asking thousands of residents across the region to identify through stories, maps, images, and strategies the elements of a story about the region’s future that they support. In order to do that, we need people to help us tell stories! By starting with these driving forces and working forward to impacts, outcomes, and decision points, YOU can help us tell YOUR story about the future.

There are two major ways to get involved: our next round of online survey questions through local polling service POLCO, and setting up a facilitated workshop with Greater Madison Vision staff!

Answer survey questions through POLCO

A Greater Madison Vision is happy to be working with POLCO, a locally-based online polling service. More than 1,000 people across the region are answering questions on POLCO from their local communities about proposed policies, ideas for new programs and initiatives, and more. Download the POLCO app for Apple or Android smartphones, or visit www.polco.us to sign up! You will see questions from A Greater Madison Vision, along with questions from local communities in your area.

Go to our Survey Questions page to answer a sample Polco question.

Set up a facilitated driving forces workshop

Driving forces workshops will engage participants in small and large group exercises and discussions about possible futures, decision points, and interventions. They will include group learning, keypad clicker voting on key driving forces, small group discussions about potential impacts of those forces, and a whole-group discussion about common themes, areas of conflicting views about the future, and opportunities for local organizations and communities to work together.

A Greater Madison Vision’s staff are trained in facilitation and would be happy to set up a 1- to 2-hour workshop with groups and organizations! Please contact Matt Covert at (608) 283-1265 or MattC@capitalarearpc.org to schedule and organize a workshop today.

Did we miss anything?

Thanks to the nuanced and insightful thoughts and comments from survey and discussion participants, we have a pretty good idea of the range of big-picture trends that could shape the future in a big way. But if you think we’ve missed something, please contact us!