Major changes of direction that affect whole societies occur very rarely. We are on the cusp of an epochal change which promises to transform the world as we have known it. The reaction to the global financial crisis and growing understanding of the impact of climate change are two of the triggers of a profound transformation. Combined with the new American president with roots in community activism and an energised population facing real challenges, business as usual will become a thing of the past. The building blocks of this change have been put in place over the past decade, with increasing awareness of the limits of the old economic models combined with the transformative power of access to information due to the rise of the internet. Participation, community engagement, interactivity, social capital, innovation and initiative are the new buzz words. Cheryl Kernot explores what this may mean, in a lead essay that will provide a draft of a possible future. Other essays will explore the nature of a new world in which participation is possible and the old paradigms no longer apply - in politics, government, health, social relations and education.