Mapping the Levers that Shape a More Equitable Future

We launched the Equitable Enterprise Initiative with a key insight that emerged from over a decade researching the future of work: stakeholder capitalism, an improvement on shareholder capitalism, still won’t be enough to make our economy more equitable in the 21st century.

Modern corporations are using technology to reorganize the economy in such ways that even the term “stakeholders” may become meaningless. Which is why thinking about equity in the future requires a deeper examination of the design of enterprise itself. If tech giants are reimagining enterprise, so should we. Over the next decade, we need to ask: “What does it look like, in our new digital economy, to build enterprises that are equitable?”

We began exploring that question by looking across communities to see how innovators (across centuries) have tried to organize work to achieve equitable ends. Their efforts point us to six levers in particular that we can focus on to build more equitable enterprises and ecosystems.

We invite you to explore the six levers of Labor, Capital, Ownership, Learning, Code, and Community in this map for re-working the future. Whether you’re launching a new enterprise, transitioning your company to new owners, or advocating for social or policy change, consider how the levers can work together to redefine what enterprises can be and the impact they can have in our communities.

Read the map and research here. >>


Durable Dominance: How Mass Attention Favors the Elites

In this deep dive, EEI Advisor Johan Chu, Assistant Professor, MIT Sloan School of Management cautions us to expect unintended consequences as we try to create a fairer economy. Examples abound (see signals below) of various efforts to introduce more equitable enterprises that are owned by workers and their communities. But promising as they sound they won’t easily chip away at the dominance of their extractive market leaders. In fact, in our “mass attention economy,” increased competition may unintentionally strengthen the lead of the dominants. Professor Chu shares how he derived his counterintuitive findings from research into mutual funds, craft beer, scientific publishing, and especially the K-pop music industry. How then do we challenge the elites? Professor Chu suggests we may need to create new structures that lower the “transaction costs” of civic participation and harness “crowd authenticity,” allowing the small to be powerful collectively.

Would you like to help with in-depth research?

The Equitable Enterprise Initiative is continuing its work to understand the unique approaches that different businesses are taking to expand equity. To this end, we are conducting interviews to better understand how different types of enterprises (Cooperatives, Trusts, L3C, Nonprofits, etc) organize in order to more equitably distribute value to their stakeholders.

We are interested in the enterprise’s vision, the strategies to achieve such vision, and the opportunities and challenges the enterprise is facing in daily operations. No preparation is required. 

During the interview, we’ll ask questions about: 

  1. The journey to the present and key milestones

  2. The origin, context, and vision of the organization

  3. Defining features of the organization and levers for change

  4. Lessons and pathways forward

If selected, the interviewee will participate in a 90-minute interview online via Zoom with our researcher. The compensation for participation is $250. 

We would love your help in identifying organizations that might be a good fit. If you have any recommendations for people and/or organizations we should speak with, please email them to Lir Wang at

Signals From the Future

A signal is a disruptive innovation that feels like the beginning of a possible future. A signal can be an unexpected product, practice, technology, event, data point, or organization that has the potential to catch on. What's outlandish today could be mainstream in a few years.

Uber broke laws, duped police and secretly lobbied governments, leak reveals

Uber broke laws, duped police and secretly lobbied governments, leak reveals More than 124,000 documents leaked to The Guardian show the extent to which Uber broke laws and lobbied politicians in dozens of countries to aid their global expansion. Mark MacGann, a career lobbyist who worked for Uber, came forward as the whistleblower, and expressed remorse for selling a lie and contributing to practices that were “deeply unfair” and “anti-democratic.” What could whistleblowing at Facebook and now Uber mean? We may need to rely on insiders, more than government leaders, to keep near-monopolistic tech platforms in check.

‘Maid’ is the most-watched limited series on Netflix

Maid is a critically-acclaimed Netflix series about a young woman who becomes a housecleaner to support herself and her daughter as she flees an abusive relationship and overcomes being unhoused. The story shines the spotlight on “financial abuse” faced by too many low income workers.  It surpassed The Queen’s Gambit in most-watched limited series on Netflix, which could point to an appreciation for more content that reflects the economic struggles of real, working people in
the U.S.

Kerala Plans to Launch 4,000 Platform Co-ops to Upskill Unemployed Youth

The Indian state of Kerala is getting behind platform coops to provide not only jobs but a more equitable relationship between employers and workers in the gig economy. Its long-term strategy for youth employment calls for the creation of 4,000 platform cooperatives, which would connect educated young people to work without going through exploitative middlemen. Not only that, they would also give workers ownership and voice in how the platforms are used.

Want to Know More?

What we're reading:

...listening to:

...and watching:

  • Netflix | Maid - Ten-part series on a young woman’s struggle to escape domestic and financial abuse, inspired by Stephanie Land’s memoir.
This initiative is made possible with the generous support of: 
Conrad N. Hilton Foundation 
The Ford Foundation

W.K. Kellogg Foundation 
The James Irvine Foundation 
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

View this issue online.

About Institute for the Future

Institute for the Future is the world’s leading futures organization. For over 50 years, businesses, governments, and social impact organizations have depended upon IFTF global forecasts, custom research, and foresight training to navigate complex change and develop world-ready strategies. IFTF methodologies and toolsets yield coherent views of transformative possibilities across all sectors that together support a more sustainable future. Institute for the Future is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Palo Alto, California.

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Palo Alto, CA 94301

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