The Future Of Work Is Not Preordained
How asking four questions will ensure more equitable outcomes
In 2009, the U.S. Department of Education spearheaded a new initiative and competitive grant process, named Race To The Top, to motivate state and local districts to develop bold visions for the education sector. While many will debate the initiative’s effectiveness, it stands as an enduring example to how a competition-based call to action can inspire communities to lead the way and drive systems-level innovation.
Race To The Top inspired a conversation New Profit convened in Boston earlier this month to explore the question: How could a community competition accelerate ecosystem innovation to help frontline workers succeed in the future workforce.
Spurring Breakthrough Innovation
New Profit is receiving funding from Walmart.org, Strada Education Network, Lumina Ventures, Joyce Foundation, Siegel Family Endowment and XPRIZE to design a global public prize competition. In late fall, we’ll launch the Future of Work edition of XPRIZE to incentivize teams of innovators to create solutions that help connect frontline workers to the training and jobs that are required to increase their mobility, grow the economy and prepare Americans for the future workforce.
Galvanizing the Innovation Community
At a national level, XPRIZE is meant to solicit solutions to advance frontline workers in the Future of Work. As we design the Future of Work XPRIZE, we are exploring how a community-based prize might amplify or even replace a more solution-focused prize competition.
Here in Massachusetts and in other states, we’re also working at a local level to collect input on how we may develop community-level competitions that incentivize stakeholders in education and workforce development to connect in new ways to create a learning ecosystem that supports adult learners in their quest for meaningful employment.
To kick off this six-month process, we hosted a Visioneering Workshop with a group of Massachusetts stakeholders in the New Profit offices. We brought together workers, government leaders, venture capitalists, Fortune 500 employers, entrepreneurs and policy experts into one room to explore solutions that will incentivize community leaders to build a coherent and easy-to-navigate ecosystem that better serves adult learners and employers.
We spent the morning asking each other:
● What are the key aspects of the competition design?
● How can we get stakeholders to work together?
● How do we encourage stakeholders to involve entry-level employees and workers who need upskilling in their design process?
● How can we drive systems change through this design?
Redesigning our Collective Future
Throughout the day, we saw energy, creativity and collaboration. The ideas that were shared sparked new ideas, from legitimizing non-traditional pathways into careers to creating an entirely new learning ecosystem.
One frontline worker, Ken Lee, who recently completed the Per Scholas IT training program and is now seeking employment, shared his own personal journey and the obstacles he has faced in attaining full-time work. He found the experience of brainstorming ideas with leaders and fellow workers both validating and empowering. “Events like the Visioneering workshop are essential because they start the conversation and planning needed to give support to the neglected workforce who don’t have post-secondary education.”
Despite the innovation shared, we were limited by the experiences and identities of the people in the room. Throughout the day, Jaye Espy, the Partnership Development Leader at K-12, couldn’t stop thinking of her brother, Henry, the mayor of Clarksdale, Mississippi: “My brother would love this. I know his community — and so many others — would benefit from the ideas being shared in this room today.”
And this is exactly the type of mindset we need. The event, while limited by capacity and physical space, is not meant to designate gatekeepers on this issue. It’s meant to kick off a process where we design with, and not simply for, those who are most in need of a new solution.
To reach every worker in the U.S., we need to build bridges that connect business, education and policy leaders. We need these leaders to pursue policy changes and large-scale impact initiatives that go beyond reporting back to stakeholders — and instead, go all in on scalable innovation.
How the Future of Work is Funded
On Medium, I’m excited to share a behind-the-scenes look at how we’re designing this process. Follow along with my editorial series to see howthe future of work is funded — because these funding decisions have a significant impact on our future.
If we continue with traditional funding practices, we’ll be left with traditional outcomes — which have historically and disproportionately left behind people of color and workers with low wages. Racism and inequity are products of design. It’s up to us to work together and dismantle these systems.
Follow me for more updates on XPRIZE, the community challenge and more on how the future of work is funded.