Serving the Society's Professional Members: The World Future Society's Founding President Gives a Brief History of the Professional Membership Program and Outlines Its Future

By Cornish, Edward | The Futurist, January-February 2009 | Go to article overview

Serving the Society's Professional Members: The World Future Society's Founding President Gives a Brief History of the Professional Membership Program and Outlines Its Future


Cornish, Edward, The Futurist


The creation of a new journal, World Future Review, is a new and promising approach to a long-standing problem: How can the World Future Society best serve those members who want more-detailed information than can be published in THE FUTURIST magazine?

The problem surfaced as early as 1966 during the discussions that led to the Society's founding. Some of the founders envisioned the Society as a highly professional association for people with advanced degrees or special training in dealing with futures research and public policy issues.

After much debate about possible requirements for people wishing to join the Society's planned Professional Section, the organizers decided that there should be no prerequisites for membership. Instead, it would be self-selective: A higher level of dues would be required for people joining the Professional Section, but the Section would be open to anyone willing to pay the higher dues required to provide the special services for Professional Members. The services would include publications and meetings limited to Professional Members.

The policies governing the Professional Section have continued since the Society's early years, but the services have evolved through the years as the Society's leadership sought the best means of meeting the needs of its Professional Membership.

In 1968, the Society initiated a "Supplemental Program," which consisted of a monthly newsletter plus copies of future-oriented manuscripts and reports received from scientists, government officials, and scholars.

At the time, the Society depended entirely on volunteer labor and could not afford one of the new and expensive Xerox machines, so the manuscripts and the newsletter had to be laboriously mimeographed and collated, largely by volunteers working in the home of Charles and Yvonne Williams. Charles Williams, one of the founders of the Society, had taken the initiative in establishing the Supplemental Program.

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Despite the primitive quality of the printing, the mimeographed newsletter proved quite popular with the first Professional Members, However, producing these products imposed a heavy burden on the Williams family, and after a few years, the task passed to other volunteers and the Society's headquarters staff. (The Society hired its first employee in 1969.)

As the Professional Membership grew, the monthly newsletter improved in size and content and began to be professionally printed, but copying and collating hundreds of copies of scholarly papers proved increasingly impractical.

So, in 1975, the World future Society Bulletin was transformed from a newsletter into a journal that could incorporate the scholarly papers. At that point, Lane Jennings, a scholar with a doctorate in German literature from Harvard University, took over the editorship from me; 1 had been editing the Bulletin in addition to THE FUTURIST since their inception.

The Birth of Future Survey

Three years later, one of the Society's early members, Michael Marien, approached the Society with an unusual proposal.

Marien, a social scientist with a doctorate from Syracuse University, had been a research fellow at Syracuse's Educational Policy Research Center, where he developed an extraordinary knowledge of books and reports dealing with public policy issues and the human future.

When the Center closed in 1972, Marien set up his own firm, information for Policy Design, and began serving clients eager to use his unique talents. In 1976 he published a remarkable 399-page volume entitled Societal Directions and Alternatives: A Critical Guide to the Literature. This volume showcased his exceptional ability to extract the key thoughts from massive amounts of current literature and to summarize these insights in brief but perceptive abstracts.

In 1978, Marien approached Peter Zuckerman, the Society's secretary-treasurer, to see if the World Future Society would be interested in publishing a monthly newsletter describing new books and articles dealing with the future. …

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