Charleston’s Bold Future

Our Responsibilities:

Strategic Foresight

Community Scenarios



You know Charleston, South Carolina as a top-rated travel destination..its historic downtown, southern hospitality, and Spoleto Festival. But Charleston’s not just popular with tourists. It’s breaking every population growth projection.

How will Charleston maintain its quality of life for residents, when it’s growing at a break-neck pace?

The Charleston Metro Chamber engaged NEXT Generation Consulting, Inc. to determine:

  • What will our community be like when we reach one million people?
  • How can the business community play more of a leadership role and be a stronger partner in the future of the region?
  • How can we stop studying issues, and start taking action?

The Solutions: Strategic Foresight and VisionLab

The Charleston Metro Chamber and NEXT Generation Consulting collaborated on a day-long Strategic Foresight workshop and a “Vision Lab.”

The Strategic Foresight workshop:

  • Assembled over 80 business and community leaders;
  • Hosted two guest provocateurs: Peter Greenwald, a community leader and developer from Arlington County, Virginia; and Dr. Peter Bishop, a professional futurist from Houston, Texas. The provocateurs role was to ask tough questions and keep the group future-focused;
  • Analysed, among other things, population trends, economic trends, technology trends, environmental trends, etc.;
  • Developed eight possible scenarios for the future of the Charleston region, including a “Watch and Wait” scenario in which the community does nothing to respond to current trends; several “Disruption” scenarios which included “good” disruptions (new job growth) and “bad” disruptions (hurricanes); and “Blue Sky” scenarios, in which everything falls into place;
  • Identified issues that cut across all scenarios and were determined “critical” to Charleston’s future; and
  • Selected two issues — infrastructure and affordable housing — that would be the Chamber’s focus over the next several years.

The Vision Lab:

Vision Lab is an innovative approach to stakeholder alignment and action planning. Borrowing elements from military strategy and Silicon Valley startup culture, Vision Lab was designed to help key stakeholders make decisions quickly and commit to action. The Charleston Metro Chamber dedicated its first VisionLab to Infrastructure, which included:

  • A small group of key stakeholders;
  • A morning session to brainstorm how military strategies could be used to help South Caroline address its infrastructure shortfalls;
  • A luncheon with two guests who had already effectively led their communities through similar infrastructure reinvestments;
  • An afternoon session of rapid prototyping and testing, to ensure that the strategies could be effective in the near term in South Carolina; and
  • Commitments from every participant, to the strategy and to their role in it.

The Results: A Shared Vision and Mobilized Stakeholders

Within a year after the VisionLab, the Chamber and its partners were nearly successful in achieving every single goal they had set for infrastructure.

“Every member of the Statehouse knew that infrastructure was at the top of the business community’s agenda,” said Mary Graham, Chief Advancement Officer of the Chamber.

The Charleston Chamber embraced its role as charting the course for the community for the next 20-30 years, and serving as an advocate for the changes needed now, to secure a brighter future for the next generation.