The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation uses its significant endowment to support 'disruptive' healthcare innovation.  Their definition of health is far broader than hospitals or health care institutions. 

Among their many portfolios is one dealing with Vulnerable Populations.    If you are wondering about the language of vulnerability don't.  The trajectory of their funding tilts in the direction of strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability.  Their portfolio of grantmaking backs many leading edge initiatives including our very own Tyze Personal Networks.  They seek out fresh perspectives that challenge conventional thinking and use resources more efficiently.  They believe solutions to better health usually come from outside the health care system.

We have worked with a number of their senior staff, people like Vulnerable Populations Team Director and Senior Program Officer, Jane Isaacs Lowe who are smart, focused and effective.

The Foundation along with the Institute for Alternative Futures, have just published, Vulnerability 2030: Scenarios on Vulnerability, a report describing four scenarios for vulnerable populations by 2030.

If you are part of an organization that is working to reduce vulnerability, these scenarios can help you identify emerging challenges to overcome, as well as emerging opportunities to pursue.  They will force you to question many of the assumptions you may be carrying from the past into the present.

The report offers three major lessons from their review of vulnerability:

1.  Circumstances affecting vulnerability can change dramatically over time.  It is not safe to assume that the future will be like the present.

2.  Vulnerability cannot be understood in isolation.  It is affected  by developments in the economy, technology, urbanization, social exclusion, education, environment, public health…

3.  What happens is not inevitable. The past was shaped by people caring, daring and working hard. Among the most influential variables affecting vulnerable populations in the future will be our own values, our beliefs about what is possible, and our efforts to mold the future toward our aspiration.

 The four scenarios which are accompanied by implications for funders, policy makers, activists and philanthropists are:

Scenario 1: Comeback? The economy rebounds.  Education improves. But automation and offshoring prevent many jobs from ever coming back.  Governments are constrained by their debts.  Despite some improvements, the ranks of the vulnerable expand.

Scenario 2: Dark Decades: Double-dip recession is followed by Peak Oil in 2016.  Energy and food prices rise rapidly while low and middle income jobs disappear.  Government services and payments are cut severely, while vulnerability rises significantly.

Scenario 3: Equitable Economy: A Depression follows the great recession.  Massive unemployment and hardship prompt a shift in values that lead to an economy that is fair and works for all. Governments are forced to be effective and education works for all.  Vulnerability is reduced.

Scenario 4:Creative Communities: The economy recovers.  High debt levels limit what governments can do. Families and communities become more self reliant and creative in finding solutions to their problems, creating local currencies, barter services, supports for local innovation and invigorated processes for community engagement.  Technology yields low cost energy and food, as well as a capacity for localized manufacturing of many daily necessities.  Vulnerability is reduced.

The Foundation has also developed an associated toolkit (instructions, exercises, worksheets, and a series of videos to put you in the 'mental space' associated with each scenario.  You can access the toolkit here.

Related Resource

A Time Machine for America's Most Vunerable – Jane Isaacs Lowe

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