Creating the Future’s Theory of Change

ChangeCreating the Future’s tagline is simple and powerful: Change the Questions, Change the World!

Which of course then begs the question, “What are those questions?”

The answers lie in our brand new white paper, Change the Questions, Change the World: Creating the Future’s Theory of Everything.

Download it Now
When you download the paper, you’ll find it is actually a review draft. Why a draft? Because we want your input to help us make it the best it can be. 

If that intrigues you, read on! (If not, please download and enjoy the draft as it is.)

Add Your Input
The audience for this white paper will be the world – a general audience piece for people who want to make a difference, however they define “make a difference.” It will be posted at our website to explain the grounding for everything Creating the Future is doing, for anyone who arrives at our site.

Once this piece is solid, we’ll craft short pieces (executive summary, slideshare, video, infographic) to introduce people who share our commitment to accomplishing this mission and who may want to partner with us to make that happen.

You can see why this piece is so important – and why your help is so invaluable!

As part of the draft review team, we will send you new versions as we make changes, as well as Part 2 when it’s written (when you download the paper, you’ll see this is Part 1 of 2).

NOTE: Part 2 was published in June 2015. You will find that here.

[si-contact-form form=’5′] If you’d like to help, and you’d like to receive updates as we make the changes folks have suggested, send us your contact information using this form.

Our questions about the draft are on Page 1 of that paper. Please post your thoughts right here in the comments, to help us keep track of it all as we make changes.

Please know how grateful we are for your helping us make this piece the best it can be. We look forward to hearing what is standing out for you as you read!






10 thoughts on “Creating the Future’s Theory of Change”

  1. Hildy and the CTF team, I really enjoyed reading the white paper. I cringe to think about the times I have and do fall back on the reactive and limited questions that sometimes come to mind reflexively! I certainly know that when we work with organisations, movements or communities to identify what they really want to create it is so powerful.

    My main response is that I wonder if this white paper could better model your own framework by changing the structure somewhat. The majority of the paper is focused on what is currently wrong with how we think and question and this is compelling – however, it is also an example of the practices you want us all to move away from.

    I think that the paper could be stronger with starting of more of the content from page 23 onwards. Can’t we learn from the transformative social change that has happened exactly because people focused on the questions you advocate without necessarily needing to be so convinced about the basis of our reactivity (or at least, we can be inspired, and then illuminated about the reasons for our reactivity afterwards :).

    I loved the point that the opposite of reactive is creative, not proactive and thought this could be more prominent rather than in a footnote – and I imagine is more of a topic in the next paper to come (how do we best realise and unleash our creativity together?). I also wanted to know what in CTF’s R&D led to this insight.

    And a very small note – on pg 27 I think you mean 1%, not 99% 🙂

    Many thanks for sharing this and allowing us all to engage,


  2. Hildy, this is compelling, inspiring, provocative AND logical! You’ve embedded principles of psychology, social responsibility, business, human behavior and more. I’ve already shared the link to your draft on Facebook and encouraged everyone to read it. The world is ours to change, and your questions are the path forward.

  3. Hildy, just a quick note to highlight which elements from this paper resonated with me the most.
    1) The math section…focusing on the negative just gets us to zero, or stasis. Powerful!
    2) “Collective Enoughness” – memorable.
    3) Any statements referencing historical events when focusing on the positive catalyzed societal/systemic change (ie, Renaissance, etc). If there’s any way to feature or highlight these statements that could be very powerful.

  4. Hi Hildy,

    Thanks so much for sharing the draft of the white paper. A few comments to share with you and the CTF team:

    1. I really like the conversational tone of the paper–it makes it accessible to a wide audience.

    2. I like the section on seeing and expecting the best in our competitors. As in many situations, people tend to rise (or sink) to our expectations, and I love the idea of bringing competitors to the table to be part of the solution.

    3. I also like the section on collective enoughness–this is so central to shifting the nonprofit sector’s approach to problem solving. In my work as a grant writing consultant, nearly every nonprofit I’ve worked for has linked their inability to create change to their inability to secure resources (usually money). There is a cultural shift that needs to happen that the paper is helping address.

    4. I love the number line representation of good vs “less bad” goal setting. Such a simple, clear visual for the concept.

    A few questions/comments:

    1. Re: data-driven strategies on pages 9-10: I wonder if there is a way to recognize that data has its place, but that the timing of its insertion into strategy is important. On first read, I saw this section as being anti-data and anti-evidence. And I would argue that in some cases, data and quantified information can actually drive a sense of wonder and possibility (e.g., the possibility of life on other planets, the possibility of eradicating disease).

    2. On p15, you refer to “cultural systems”–are these cultural systems within an American context due to its emphasis on competition, or do you mean them more broadly as part of human cultural systems? Or, asked another way, do you feel these cultural systems are an American/Western phenomenon, or are they a human phenomenon? I think it’s helpful to understand the scale and larger context in which the changes you propose would occur.

    3. I feel like there is another layer of the scarcity discussion on p17: to me, it’s not simply about the historical assumptions of scarcity that drive our thinking. There’s also the issue of uneven distribution of scarcity, that assigning some people “Other” status drives the scarcity paradigm because we see some groups as “less worthy” of sharing resources with, even if those resources exist. This may be beyond the scope of what you want this first paper to accomplish or maybe it will be addressed in Part 2, but I think it’s an important part of the discussion about effecting change on a large scale.

  5. Made me remember why I am involved in this sector, and what the stakes are. In world increasingly managed as if it consisted only of “things,” including humans, you address us, as did MLK, as moral agents of our own destiny. It starts with an impossible, but irreplaceable, dream. I wonder if you work is beginning to intersect in some ways with that of Stanford Social Enterprise Review, on catalytic philanthropy, shared value, and other ways of saying that communities are the proper units of analysis. I like your stuff better because it is egalitarian, and humane. You do not dream of running things. You want to help others prosper by seizing the initiative in their own communities. Bravo!


  6. A provocative and engaging paper written in a conversational, positive and welcoming tone, rather than a “we know better/holier than thou” tone.

    I believe I have a clear sense of your TOC and after reading it, am left wondering about assumptions made by me in my daily work and home life.

    I am left to wonder about the details of the ‘action framework’ and the challenge of implementing it among various constituencies/stakeholders….but seen in the right light, that is the ‘fun’ of it.
    Time well spent. Thank-you

  7. I don’t read material like this—I was going to say often—ever, so I’m not familiar with the format for pieces that sell cultural change. The best I can offer is my impressions of the document as argument while I read it.

    1. I’m not engaged enough in the topic at the outset to feel the value of the Introduction. Your mission is vital to you, but not yet to me. How you arrived at your place may be important to me once I’ve fallen in love with your message, but not in advance.
    2. The Toynbee quote is the first moment of excitement for me. I will gladly read a prescription for achieving the global good.
    3. This language loses me: As we seek to accomplish Creating the Future’s mission, one core assumption guides every aspect of hat work: the interdependent reality of causality.
    4. Your headings should be bold, positive claims, not generalties, never questions. Instead of “What is happening when humanity takes dramatic leaps forward?,” a pronouncement: Belief in a Safe Landing Precedes the Bold Leap. Or: The Future is not Inevitable; It Must be Created. Or: something better.
    5. Not: “The Assumptions Embedded in Humanity’s Huge Leaps Forward,” but “Huge Leaps Must First Be Imagined.”
    6. (I disagree that social advances arise from our better nature. Old prejudices persist until the old rationalizations seem shameful. As soon as a small majority favor benevolence, pride of enlightenment displaces the shame of the disreputable excuses and the tide has turned.) Address my objection directly and refute it, and you will win me.

    This is all I have time for now. Is it helpful?

      • I’m glad. Would you like to direct my efforts toward a particular aspect of your content, your rhetoric, or your pitch? I am not your usual client, I imagine, but, since your audience is “the world,” I will presume to speak for humanity.

  8. Hildy:

    I am just now digging into this document and there are three things that strike me. One is (and maybe this is the science nerd in me) that biological reasons for neural behavior patterns reinforce what you are saying. It helps add another layer of credibility and understanding when you cite research that supports your point. This is particularly helpful for me when I think that these deeply ingrained neural pathways aren’t always my fault and there is hope for creating new ways to think about things. Neural plasticity rules! Indeed, it gives me great hope!

    The second point that resonated with me is the concept of “real but not true” – I have been reading a great book by Tara Brach that speaks to this concept and have found it to be very enlightening. The book is called “True Refuge.” Very powerful. Sometimes we beat ourselves up for creating the system that isn’t working well. That is one of the things I like most about Creating the Future – its hopefulness and recognition of the power to change the conversation.

    And finally – I love the insertion of the word FUN at the end. That is one of the key factors for success when one is trying to build community vision. Thank you Hildy! Looking forward to the beta class.


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