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This page and space will be a resource center for those interested or participating in the MIT IDE Inclusive Innovation Competition The IIC is a judged competition, with the goal of drawing both attention and innovative activity to an important task – understanding and improving the economic opportunity for all workers. Join us as we use our collective talents and passions to help identify, celebrate and enable new business models that value job creation, skills development and wage equality.

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Devin Cook


innovation, competition,economy, ide,second_machine_age,inclusive_innovation_competition,future_of_work, equality


Nov 24, 2015


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In a wide-ranging online discussion, MIT IDE Director Erik Brynjolfsson and O’Reilly Media Founder and CEO, Tim O’Reilly, fielded questions about the future of work, automation and education, and how the Inclusive Innovation Competition can play a part in addressing these critical digital economy concerns.


During the one-hour Twitter chat on April 13, Brynjolfsson said that new skills, business models and interaction with machines are required in order for the workforce to keep pace with the huge transformations taking place. The Inclusive Innovation Competition (IIC) was created to allow mid- and base-level income earners to access and share in bounty of The Second Machine Age (#2MA ) and the digital era, he said.


The IIC is seeking Inclusive Innovators — technology optimists who believe technology can enhance the well-being of all — that have harnessed the modern toolkit of innovation to improve the #FutureofWork. The IIC will recognize and reward organizations that can demonstrate clear and compelling solutions and set standards of achievement.


Education, appropriate tax credits and Inclusive Innovation can lead to shared prosperity, Brynjolfsson said. In response to a question, he said that some basic income plan may need to emerge in the U.S., but not in the near-term: “I give basic income high odds by 2040 in the U.S., low odds by 2020.”


O’Reilly, one of the competition judges, sees technology replacing some white-collar jobs, not just manual jobs. Nevertheless, he doesn’t think employment changes are “either linear or exponential. It is far more complex. Some jobs will disappear completely and quickly, while new jobs — as in healthcare, for example — will explode on the scene. As with all wicked problems,” O’Reilly said, “there is no one with a magic wand. We all have to step up!”

The full Storify presentation of the event can be found here.


Among other highlights of the chat:

  • Training costs will be the combined responsibility of employees, firms and government. Employees may pay for more general skills, and firms for more job-specific training, Brynjolfsson said. Education has to be re-invented “to focus more on creativity and interpersonal skills, not just facts and instruction.”
  • We need to correct the imbalance between employment supply and demand. For instance, “5 million ICT jobs are open today. More effective matching of qualified people with open opportunities,” is an important requirement, Brynjolfsson said. Matching is one of the four categories of the IIC.
  • As pointed out in The Second Machine Age, and in this TedTalk, Brynjolfsson believes that to create economic opportunity for all, humans must work together with machines. Humans + Machines is another category of the IIC.
  • New Models to help business and society adapt, as well as new employment Skills are necessary as work evolves. Firms like General Assembly (@GA) and BioBuilder (@SystemsSally), which were represented at the IIC’s recent showcase, are already developing new ways to teach digital skills (and access relevant jobs). New Models and Skills are also categories of the IIC.


For more on @MIT_IIC categories, see and

Also see this blog and others on Medium here.

About three years ago, MIT launched the Initiative on the Digital Economy (IDE), a major effort focused on the broad changes brought about by the relentless advances of digital technologies. As its website explains:


“While digital technologies are rapidly transforming both business practices and societies and are integral to the innovation-driven economies of the future, they are also the core driver of the great economic paradox of our time. On one hand, productivity, wealth, and profits are each at record highs; on the other hand, the median worker in America is poorer than in 1997, and fewer people have jobs. Rapid advances in technology are creating unprecedented benefits and efficiencies, but there is no economic law that says everyone, or even a majority of people, will share in these gains.


The future of work and jobs is one of the major areas being addressed by IDE.  What will the workforce of the future look like?; Where will jobs come from in the coming years?; Will the nature of work be significantly different in the digital economy?; How can we accelerate the transformation of institutions, organizations, and human skills to keep up with the quickening pace of digital innovation?


To help come up with breakthrough answers to these very challenging questions, IDE just launched its first annual Inclusive Innovation Competition.  The competition aims to identify, celebrate and award prizes to “organizations that are inventing a more sustainable, productive, and inclusive future for all by focusing on improving economic opportunity for middle- and base-level income earners.”



The competition is open to for-profit and non-profit organizations of any size, age or type, in any nation around the world.  It seeks creative solutions in four major categories:

  • Skills: Prepare members of the workforce for opportunities of the future, including the necessary education to help them acquire new kills as well as improve their existing ones.
  • Matching: Help qualified unemployed or underemployed individuals gain access to meaningful, productive and engaging work by improving the matching of labor supply with demand.
  • Humans + Machines: Use technology to augment human labor so that the outcome is greater than either human or machine could achieve alone, and develop innovative offerings that improve the human capacity for effective physical or cognitive work.
  • New Models: Come up with innovative jobs, business models and operational practices that will revolutionize the labor markets, help create new economic opportunities, and enable workers to succeed in meaningful ways.

A total of $1 million will be awarded. In each of the four categories, the grand prize winner will receive $125,000, and four runner-ups will each receive $25,000. In addition, a handful of additional awards will be given to organizations deemed by the judges to be uniquely inventive.


Let me briefly discuss why I think that the Inclusive Innovation Competition is so important.

Few topics are as critical, - and as challenging to anticipate, - than the future of jobs in the digital economy. Along with its many benefits, the digital revolution has resulted in enormous dislocations in labor markets and a sharp polarization in job opportunities over the past several decades.


Jobs requiring expert problem-solving and complex communications skills have significantly expanded, with the earnings of the college-educated workers needed to fill such jobs rising steadily. But opportunities have significantly declined for middle-skill jobs dealing with the kinds of routine physical or cognitive tasks that can be well described by a set of rules and have thus been prime candidates for technology substitution. Low-skill jobs involving physical tasks have been growing, but their wages have been stagnant or declining. Moreover, as intelligent machines become more capable and less expensive, they will increasingly compete with and replace unskilled human labor all around the world.


Continue reading the full blog here

At the MIT IDE, we are technology optimists. We believe we can shape the future of work to be better than the present by developing inclusive innovations that meaningfully engage all workers. However, “the robots will take our jobs” is a common trope in today’s global conversation. This frequently-expressed viewpoint -- that technology will reduce workers to monotonous drudgery at best and obsolescence at worst -- is damaging and disempowering; this message suggests that our fate is sealed.


We wholeheartedly disagree with this perspective. As Erik Brynolfsson said in his TED talk, “we shape our destiny,” and this is why we launched the Inclusive Innovation Competition. We believe that the future of work can be better for all. With thoughtful inventiveness and entrepreneurial spirit, we can shape and raise the prospects for workers in this Second Machine Age.


But in order to achieve this goal, we need to engage a wide variety of stakeholders who also believe that building a better future is possible. We must tap the research labs, university classrooms, government offices, entrepreneurial ecosystems, and corporate boardrooms where technology is embraced. We also need to engage workers who fear that a computer, robot, or machine could take their jobs. We need to shift the conversation away from fear and toward empowerment, so that together we can design the future of work for all.


The purpose of the Inclusive Innovation Competition, therefore, is two-fold: to improve the future of work for all workers and to shift the conversation toward optimism about the future.


This is a task that requires inclusive effort, so we need you. Help us change the conversation and shape the future. How? Join us!

  1. Sign up on our website for updates about the Inclusive Innovation Competition. You’ll be among the first to know the details of the competition, which we will reveal in January.
  2. Share your experiences with us.  What workplace innovations have you seen reshape the experience and economic prospects of workers? Tell us your examples in the comments below or reach out to us directly.
  3. Contact me directly on this site or at the address below to discuss how you and your organization can join the conversation.


Devin Cook

Executive Producer

Inclusive Innovation Competition

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