How We Get To Next

Bill And Melinda Gates Foundation

What’s the background?

Inspired by Steven Johnson’s 2014 book, How We Got To Now, as well as the 2016 BBC and PBS adaptation, we told stories about the “long zoom” view of human life.

What was the solution?

How We Get To Next was a magazine of the future. It launched in September 2014, and closed in May 2019. Our editorial mission was guided by our belief that the future needs a new framework. We called this approach structural futurism: a way of imagining the future that focuses on how people interact with systems, be it corporate agriculture or institutional racism.

Our multi-part series took a big-picture view of things like the future of reproductive health in India and the world’s next big pandemic. Our features dug into systemic bias in Silicon Valley technology, the colonial roots of tuberculosis in southern Africa, and the cultural impact of the “Instagram eyebrow.” Our columnists explored space, disability, food, and health–as well as the systems that shape our understanding of those topics. Our purview was global, and the voices we published were as well. A nonprofit digital publication, How We Get To Next was funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

What was the impact?

Over 4 years of themed monthly editions, we built a loyal audience of over 50,000 subscribers, with millions of article reads. Our stories were regularly picked up for syndication by influential publications worldwide, including Quartz and El Pais.

Storythings is a rare combination of an agency that is innovative, diligent, and full of talented people, but also humble and adaptable. Recently we wanted to develop an online project as part of our support for the PBS/BBC TV series How We Got To Now with Steven Johnson.


The goal was to take that series’ core concept of how innovation develops out of communities, and apply it to current issues around global health. Storythings then developed How We Get To Next as a companion site, publishing essay series and podcasts on subjects including global pandemics, the future of education, and tuberculosis in South Africa.


Storythings developed an active audience of over 50k subscribers, continuing the project for four years beyond the initial run of the TV show. On this and other projects, we have always had the confidence that from design to implementation, quality delivery was ensured.

Miguel Castro, Head of Global Media Partnerships, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Short film of Brian Eno speaking to author Steven Johnson about his theories of art, music and creativity.