$1 Million to Create a More Inclusive, Productive, and Sustainable Future for All

Two years ago, in their groundbreaking book The Second Machine Age, Professor Erik Brynjolfsson, Director, and Andrew McAfee, Co-director, of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, described digital technology’s transformative effect on business, the economy, and society. With productivity, wealth, and profits at historic highs, digital innovation has created unprecedented bounty for a great number of people. However, not all people have shared equally in this prosperity. In economic terms, overall GDP is growing but median incomes since 1999 have actually fallen. While technology has created greater wealth for society and for innovators at an unprecedented pace, changes in our economy are actually leaving many people—especially middle- and base-level earners—worse off.

This is the great economic paradox of our time, yet at the Initiative on the Digital Economy, we know this disparity will not define our future. Rather we are technology optimists, and we believe that the future of work can be better for all. However, we cannot ensure that people will enjoy prosperous working lives, if we just stand by and watch these trends unfold. Thus to celebrate, support, and inspire solutions to this challenge, the MIT IDE launched the Inclusive Innovation Competition (IIC). We will award a total of $1 million in prizes to the world’s most inventive organizations that are enabling more people to fully experience the prosperity of the Second Machine Age.



At the heart of the Competition is this open challenge:

How can technology drive progress and growth, while ensuring that ALL of our society – particularly middle- and base-level income earners –  is brought along into this brighter future?

Celebrating the achievements of Inclusive Innovation pioneers will act as inspiration and a call-to-arms for future Inclusive Innovators, particularly in the following four critical areas:

1. Skills: How do we re-skill members of our workforce to prepare them for opportunities of the future?

The jobs that are in demand today will be very different from those required in the future. To enable prosperity in the face of accelerating technology, we need to position people to complement technological advances through strategic re-skilling and lifelong learning.

2. Matching: How do we connect qualified individuals with open opportunities for work?

In many cases, labor markets have not kept pace with rapid changes in technology, producing inefficiencies that translate into real challenges for people who struggle with unemployment, underemployment, and stagnant or declining wages. Improved matching of workers with opportunities will enable a broader swath of the population to share in the prosperity of the Second Machine Age.

3. Humans + Machines: How do we augment human labor with technology?

Through the use of technology, we have the power to amplify our unique human capabilities to create new sources of value. While fear that “the robots are taking our jobs” is commonly raised, combinations of humans and machines offer the greatest opportunity for progress and success. Whether through collaborative robotics, machine learning, or other innovations, leveraging technology as a tool enhances the value we can create.

4. New Models: How do we create new operational practices and business models to revolutionize the existing labor market?

As technology reshapes existing industries, new forms of income-generation and work opportunities will help working people find engaging and profitable work. At the same time, new practices and models must help these workers adjust to and succeed in this evolving employment landscape. As risk shifts away from employers, new approaches can help amplify workers’ voices, enable employee ownership, and protect workers’ rights. Ensuring that people benefit from the significant changes to the nature of work and are protected from any ill-effects are critical to a healthy economic future for all.

At the IDE and IIC, we wholeheartedly believe that we can develop inclusive innovations that meaningfully engage all workers . Together, we can shape our destiny and design a future that works for us all. This is the goal of the Inclusive Innovation Competition.




Devin Cook is the Executive Producer of the Inclusive Innovation Competition, which is accepting registrations through June 1. Prior to this role, she led customer experience at start-ups in the Boston-area and worked as a strategy execution consultant, implementing international projects and seminars for Fortune 100 clients. Devin studied entrepreneurship among textile artisans as a Fulbright Scholar in India. She holds an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management, where she received the Ronald I. Heller Award from the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship. Devin graduated from Middlebury College and lives in Maine.

The GradsofLifeVoice Forbes team provides thought leadership, research and expert commentary on innovative talent pipelines and related issues such as the skills gap, income inequality, workforce diversity, and the business case for employment pathways. We seek to change employers’ perceptions of young adults with atypical resumes from social liabilities to economic assets. This post was originally featured here.


Diversity, Innovation, Workforce Development,
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