Megatrend / Trend / Driver / Issue

Trend is a general tendency or direction of a development or change over time. It can be called a megatrend if it occurs at global or large scale. A trend may be strong or weak, increasing, decreasing or stable. There is no guarantee that a trend observed in the past will continue in the future.

Megatrends are the great forces in societal development that will very likely affect the future in all areas over the next 10-15 years. Megatrend is also defined as a large, social, economic, political, environmental or technological change that is slow to form. Once in place, megatrends influence a wide range of activities, processes and perceptions, both in government and in society, possibly for decades. They are the underlying forces that drive trends. (i.e. aging population)

A trend – in contrast – is an emerging pattern of change likely to impact large social groups or even state government and require a response. “Trends are experienced by everyone and often in more or less the same contexts insofar as they create broad parameters for shifts in attitudes, policies and business focus over periods of several years that usually have global reach. What is interesting about trends is that normally most players, organizations or even nations cannot do much to change them – they are larger than the power of individual organizations and often nation states as well” (e.g. urbanization, demographic change)

Drivers are defined as developments causing change, affecting or shaping the future. A driver is the cause of one or more effects, e.g. increasing sugar intake in our daily food consumption is a driver for obesity.

An issue is a controversial, debatable or “hot” topic or an innovative state action. (i.e. block chain)

Definitions adapted from:
Council of State Governments (USA):

Saritas O., Smith J. (2011, p. 294): The Big Picture – trends, drivers, wild cards, discontinuities and weak signals, Futures, 43(3): 292-312, and

from ‘Global Foresight Glossary and Drivers of Change in Ecosystems and Their Services’.