This paper argues that we need different ways of thinking, being and doing if we are to live well, prosper and safeguard the future. Primarily we need to go beyond the straight jacket of consumer needs and a consumer approach, and also encompass social needs and a social approach. By doing so, we can drive a new era of creativity and growth.Working with this emerging social space therefore becomes both an opportunity and a necessity. However, we must not only re-invent our social industries, but also our lifestyles and even the very growth models upon which they are based. To achieve this, the new technologies enable more radical innovation through the delivery of more context-based customized services and systems. Such place embedded systems have the potential to deliver sustainable solutions for the 21st century. Shifting our emphasis from consumption to services and systems, and combining a consumer-led and socially-led approach, means that how we think about and interact with the future will change. This paper explores these changes and examines how we might open up and engage with the future differently, in terms of going beyond:• a market-led approach, based on consumer research and innovation, to a socially-led approach based on social research and social innovation.
• the act of researching the future to directly engaging with the future through people who are already creating it today.
• closed research and innovation to open co-creation with stakeholders, especially users.
• a linear interpretation of time and the future towards new conceptual models that allow a more imaginative and creative interaction with the future.
In short, we need to shift the emphasis away from technology and the market and more towards people and responsibility through ownership. It is time to democratize the future.