Postsecondary and Career Pathways

#InclusiveImpact: Designing a Future of Work that Works for Everyone

In this series of articles on NPGO, New Profit explores how our Inclusive Impact strategy cuts across all the work we do to support breakthrough social entrepreneurs who are uprooting and re-architecting inequitable systems. Our first installment comes from Dr. Angela Jackson, a New Profit Partner who leads our future of work-related initiatives, including our Future of Work Grand Challenge.

By Dr. Angela Jackson, New Profit Partner and Future of Work Lead

As technology, artificial intelligence, and other disruptors continue to transform the nature of our world and our work, how can we best train humans to navigate this shift? This is one of the critical challenges of our time. As we ideate future-of-work solutions, the topic of equity must remain central if we are to build a tomorrow defined by radical humanity.

The State of Innovation

The current pace of equity-oriented innovation, particularly among solutions that help less-protected communities connect to opportunity, is not keeping up. It is imperative that we change this dynamic. Case in point: the volume of market investment to better prepare the estimated 800M workers who will be displaced through the fourth industrial revolution. Unfortunately, these dollars are not equally distributed.

Employers spend 83% of their professional development dollars on middle and high-skill employees, leaving little innovation capital left for the majority of American workers who are experiencing low wages and have not had advanced educational opportunities. Within this subgroup, Black and Latinx workers are especially at risk. Exacerbating this lack of investment in low-skill workers is a critical design flaw: the people developing solutions lack proximity and knowledge of the lived experiences of these workers. The way we’re headed, too many workers will be left behind in the future of work, which will have negative impacts on the broader American economy.

Employers spend 83% of their professional development dollars on middle and high-skill employees, leaving little innovation capital left for the majority of American workers who are experiencing low wages and have not had advanced educational opportunities... the way we’re headed, too many workers will be left behind in the future of work, which will have negative impacts on the broader American economy.

— Dr. Angela Jackson, New Profit Partner and Future of Work Lead

Revolutionizing Engagement with Impacted Communities

In an effort to address this monumental set of interrelated challenges, New Profit and a community of leading employers, innovators, and funders have come together to launch a new kind of global incentive structure. Our goal is to help workers develop the particularly human skills needed to complement machines and navigate other disruptive future of work trends.

The result? The Future of Work Grand Challenge — a new kind of innovation prize launched in June, with an aim of reaching and supporting innovators from a range of fields including artificial intelligence (AI), behavioral psychology, and workforce training — all with a specific focus on surfacing ideas from Black, Indigenous, and Latinx entrepreneurs. These visionary leaders will compete to equip workers with skills that complement automation, while multiplying investment in and catalyzing a sustainable market for future of work solutions that serve less-protected workers, Black, Latinx and Indigenous working communities.

Building on our efforts to find and surface ideas from diverse entrepreneurs, we are also engaging communities most impacted by these kinds of disruptions through our X-PERTS Advisory Board, which integrates frontline workers into nearly every step of the design and grantmaking process to ensure that end products best meet the needs of users. Specifically, opportunities for workers to reskilll in the United States require input from Black, Latinx, and Indigenous workers to be not only inclusive but also more effective — proximity equals expertise, a key premise of New Profit’s Inclusive Impact Strategy. Outside of the social impact space, we recognize the expertise of proximity. For example, businesses would not launch or distribute a new product without conducting significant research and development on the target consumer base.  Somehow, when business leaders focus on social impact, the practice of valuing the expertise is often eliminated and experiences of those who we seek to engage is largely undervalued and uncompensated. Inclusive Impact and the Future of Work Grand Challenge seek to address this strategic misstep.

In an effort to address this monumental set of interrelated challenges, New Profit and a community of leading employers, innovators, and funders have come together to launch a new kind of global incentive structure: The Future of Work Grand Challenge.

— Dr. Angela Jackson, New Profit Partner and Future of Work Lead

Designing for a New Kind of Future

Of the millions of workers who will be displaced, researchers estimate that automation will eliminate low-wage jobs at twenty times the rate of higher-wage jobs. According to estimates from the McKinsey Global Institute, companies have already invested between $20 billion and $30 billion in artificial intelligence technologies and applications.[1]  However, despite well-established findings within the design community on the importance of customer-led or cooperative design, the social impact sector has not yet broadly applied these strategies when designing future of work-related solutions. Whether designing for consumers, employees, service providers, or other audiences, when we move past the challenge of designing for them and begin designing as the user or with the user, outcomes are more innovative and customer-centered [2].

According to The Economic Policy Institute, people of color and women are currently employed in ‘automation-risky’ jobs at a higher rate than their white and male peers. This is particularly unsettling, as people of color are anticipated to be the majority of the American working class by 2043 [3], based upon workforce projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and national college completion rates by race and ethnicity. It will be important to the success of the country and in the future of work to deeply understand and address their job vulnerabilities, learning preferences, and lived realities.

Designing or co-designing solutions by social entrepreneurs of color with frontline workers provides a unique perspective given the proximity and understanding of those who will be affected by the upcoming workforce crisis most. They are, however, often not included and have increased barriers to access than white peers. New Profit, through its Inclusive Impact strategy, aims to change this. By including programmatic design constraints that require those innovators of color to complete participatory design processes with frontline workers, there will be an even greater increase in effectiveness overall. In the process, we aim to upend the status quo in the tech industry where homogenous group of founders — white males — gain access to transformative opportunities like the Future of Work Grand Challenge, XPRIZE and MIT Solve, thus begetting the capital and connections to design for the majority.

Designing or co-designing solutions by social entrepreneurs of color with frontline workers provides a unique perspective given the proximity and understanding of those who will be affected by the upcoming workforce crisis most... we aim to upend the status quo in the tech industry where homogenous group of founders — white males — gain access to transformative opportunities like the Future of Work Grand Challenge, XPRIZE and MIT Solve, thus begetting the capital and connections to design for the majority.

— Dr. Angela Jackson, New Profit Partner and Future of Work Lead

The Future of Work Grand Challenge finalists will be named in November 2020. For more information email FutureofWork@newprofit.org.

[1] How artificial intelligence can deliver real value to companies. (2h of early stage start-ups and participation in social impact accelerators like, XPRIZE, which have significant, costly and time intensive pre-requisites. ). Retrieved from McKinsey & Company website: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/mckinsey-analytics/our-insights/how-artificial-intelligence-can-deliver-real-value-to-companies

[2] Participatory Design in Practice | UX Magazine. (2017). Retrieved from Uxmag.com website: https://uxmag.com/articles/participatory-design-in-practice

[3] Wilson, V. (2016, June 9). People of color will be a majority of the American working class in 2032: What this means for the effort to grow wages and reduce inequality. Retrieved November 20, 2019, from https://www.epi.org/publication/the-changing-demographics-of-americas-working-class/