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IFTF Equitable Enterprise Initiative: Re-Working the Future


Public Conversations about Equitable Enterprise

Over the past year we’ve learned a lot about the dynamic ecosystems that support—and hinder—equitable enterprises. Much of our time in the first year of the project was dedicated to research and exploration, and while these activities remain central to the EEI, we are now turning our attention toward sharing and publicizing what we’ve learned.

On August 10th, IFTF’s Executive Director, Marina Gorbis, hosted a public convening to share findings from the newly released research ReWorking the Future: Strategies for Building Enterprise in the 21st Century and focusing on the crucial levers required for system change such as labor, capital, ownership, and more. She also held a discussion with a panel of IFTF Fellows who are currently remaking and innovating business education, creating non-extractive finance models, and developing more equitable businesses and economic systems.

Over 100 people tuned into the webinar, and if you missed it, you can watch it here. We plan to share more of our learnings in the near future, so stay tuned for updates on upcoming events.

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Advisor Spotlight

EEI Advisor Doug Rushkoff recently published a new book, Survival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires, based on his viral Medium article of the same name.

Survival of the Richest by IFTF EEI Advisor Douglas Rushkoff The tech elite have a plan to survive the apocalypse: they want to leave us all behind.

Five mysterious billionaires summoned theorist Douglas Rushkoff to a desert resort for a private talk. The topic? How to survive the “Event”: the societal catastrophe they know is coming. Rushkoff came to understand that these men were under the influence of The Mindset, a Silicon Valley–style certainty that they and their cohort can break the laws of physics, economics, and morality to escape a disaster of their own making—as long as they have enough money and the right technology.

In Survival of the Richest, Rushkoff traces the origins of The Mindset in science and technology through its current expression in missions to Mars, island bunkers, AI futurism, and the metaverse. In a dozen urgent, electrifying chapters, he confronts tech utopianism, the datafication of all human interaction, and the exploitation of that data by corporations. Through fascinating characters—master programmers who want to remake the world from scratch as if redesigning a video game and bankers who return from Burning Man convinced that incentivized capitalism is the solution to environmental disasters—Rushkoff explains why those with the most power to change our current trajectory have no interest in doing so. And he shows how recent forms of anti-mainstream rebellion—QAnon, for example, or meme stocks—reinforce the same destructive order.

This mind-blowing work of social analysis shows us how to transcend the landscape The Mindset created—a world alive with algorithms and intelligences actively rewarding our most selfish tendencies—and rediscover community, mutual aid, and human interdependency. In a thundering conclusion, Survival of the Richest argues that the only way to survive the coming catastrophe is to ensure it doesn’t happen in the first place.

EEI Research—Call For Participation

The Equitable Enterprise Initiative is continuing its work to investigate the unique approaches that different businesses are taking to make the private sector more equitable. To this end, we are conducting interviews to better understand how different types of enterprises organize themselves so they can 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 leaders face in daily operation.

Do you lead an equitable enterprise, or an enterprise that is in the process of adopting more equitable practices or structures? Or, do you know someone who does? If so, 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 lwang@iftf.org. If selected, the interviewee will participate in a 90-minute interview online via Zoom with one of our researchers and will be compensated $250 for their time.

Fellow Spotlight

EEI Fellow Esteban Kelly co-authored with Melissa Hoover an article published in the Summer 2022 issue of Nonprofit Quarterly. He discusses what a democratic economy would entail and uses scenarios—obstruction, limited progress, collapse, and transformation—to help readers imagine possible economic and social futures.

“The choices we make over the coming years will be critical to either hampering or catalyzing a democratic transition rooted in worker and community ownership and control. To be sure, we’re not suggesting that even a turbocharged transition would land us at such a vision a mere few years from now. Rather, a strategic, resilient, resourced, and supported network of leaders, institutions, and infrastructure might, over the next decade or so, create fertile soil for such transformations to take root and, ultimately, flourish.”

Read the whole article here.

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.

Signal #1: CalFLEXI

CalFLEXI, a gig work platform run though public agencies and nonprofits, was introduced to select residents in Long Beach during the pandemic. This program offers frontline workers access to affordable childcare provided by professionals and allows users to pay their sitters on a sliding scale based on the sitter’s level of experience. Care is also subsidized based on income, and low income residents can get childcare on the platform for free. In addition, all childcare providers are given full employment status by Skills4Care, a local childcare nonprofit, meaning they receive health care and other benefits. Could this be the future of platform-based work? CalFLEXI offers improvements over for-profit gig-work platforms by providing essential services to residents at affordable rates, as well as by providing gig work with employer-based benefits. Importantly, the platform is a model for more humane gig work that responds to community needs.

Signal #2: United Payments Interface (UPI)

In Q1 2022, Indians made 64% of their financial transactions using India’s domestic United Payments Interface (UPI). UPI is a national payment processing program that allows for instant transactions and has an open protocol where other technologies can be built, creating a larger and more useful network than its competitors for financial payments. Unlike private payment systems, like Visa and Mastercard, that charge merchants for accepting payments from their customers via debit or credit cards, UPI functions as a utility and allows businesses and consumers to avoid unnecessary and often predatory transaction fees. UPI has been widely adopted by both merchants and consumers in India, and has been exported to other countries including Singapore and France. Could UPI serve as a model for expanded public utilities in the future?

Want to Know More?

What we're reading:

...listening to:

...and watching:

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



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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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