By Gary A. Bolles (Chair of Future of Work, Singularity University) & Leila Toplic (No Lost Generation Tech Task Force Lead, NetHope)
This blog post is a preview of some of the topics we’ll be discussing at NetHope Global Summit in Dublin.
We are at a dramatic inflection point in human history. We are better connected and have better productivity tools than ever. At the same time, we’re faced with an accelerating pace of change in how we live, work, and learn, fueled by exponential technologies like intelligent software and powerful hardware.
While technological advances from self-driving cars to automated medical diagnostics can improve the lives of many, they also promise to dramatically impact the world of work, affecting the livelihoods of people around the world whose skills may become obsolete as employers increasingly embrace the benefits of automation. For example, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF), 35 percent of skills considered important in today’s workforce will become less needed in just the next four years. That is not to say that automation is replacing human work completely, rather it’s augmenting work, leading to fewer humans needed for some tasks.
Some analysts predict massive net job losses. A well-known McKinsey study predicts that up to 800 million people will be made jobless by automation by 2030, including a third of the workforces in the U.S. and Germany. WEF is more hopeful: If decision-makers in organizations and governments commit to helping workers develop new knowledge and skills, their recent report maintains a net gain of work opportunities of 58 million. But workers who lose their jobs—even those with recent college degrees— are increasingly unprepared to do tomorrow’s work. The result: conditions where high unemployment, unfilled jobs, and low pay can all occur at the same time.
All of these predictions attempt to look down a road heavily shrouded in fog. Our collective ability to predict the future, and to understand the actual impact of the shift to a more-digital work economy, is limited. But we do know one thing: Driven by the combination of automation and globalization, the pace of change is accelerating, and this will continue to be disruptive to many lives, organizations, industries, and economies, transforming work as we know it today while creating a range of new opportunities tomorrow.
The options are clear. Organizations and individuals can sit on the sidelines complacently working and learning the same old way, letting others design the future. Or we can each take control and proactively transform how we work and learn and design the future we all want.
For the nonprofit world, much is at stake.
Why We Must Change
Not everything about the future is uncertain. It is guaranteed that the major global challenges of today—from the refugee crisis and disease outbreaks to natural disasters and poverty—will still be with us for the foreseeable future. Exponential changes are challenging enough in stable societies and economies, but the magnitude and diversity of large-scale problems are constantly evolving, straining the global humanitarian system to the breaking point.
Many nonprofits themselves are not up to the twin tasks of rapidly navigating the seismic shift in the global work economy, while tackling growing societal and environmental problems. According to NetHope’s Center for Digital Nonprofit study, “Nonprofits play a $40 billion role in the annual delivery of international aid, and are increasingly strained by the widening gap between available resources and growing needs. The effective integration of an NGO’s people, process, and technology investments into digital business models can enhance the impact of each budget dollar and thereby help close that gap: every 5 percent increase in the effectiveness of the NGO sector translates into $2 billion of enhanced annual global impact.”
For-profit companies have recognized that rapid social and economic changes require new ways of working and learning. Like for-profit companies, nonprofits must replace rigid 20th century structures and processes and risk-averse cultures with agile networks of entrepreneurial, lifelong learners, so they can rapidly anticipate, respond to, and solve the challenges of tomorrow. We sometimes call this mentality the “exponential organization.” By leveraging technology, and the adaptive mindset that high-growth companies use to continually solve new challenges, NGOs have the opportunity to more rapidly and effectively catalyze change.
What Needs to Change
We’ll be discussing all these elements in more detail at the NetHope Global Summit in Dublin. But for now, here are a few “firestarter” ideas:
Starting with learning, we need to think and act differently, both internally and externally in the programs we implement—and, ask three critical questions:
Committing to Change
None of this is easy. But if we get started today and collectively face our exponentially changing world with effective approaches, we can have transformative impact on the challenges we all face and opportunities that change brings.
We look forward to a stimulating dialog in Dublin and to collaborating on developing the actionable strategies to which we can all commit.
Join us in Dublin for the following sessions:
11:00 AM - 11:30 AM, Wed, Nov 7, 2018
11:30 AM - 12:00 PM, Wed, Nov 7, 2018