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10 strategies for a workable future

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A call-to-action from the Workable Futures Initiative at Institute for the Future


On October 5-6, 2015, more than 60 thought leaders in the emerging on-demand economy gathered at IFTF’s Gallery for the Future in Palo Alto to create a shared vision of a world of Positive Platforms for work—platforms that enable good, dignified, and sustainable livelihoods for workers. Platform designers, entrepreneurs, journalists, researchers, educators, venture investors, representatives of worker unions and coalitions, and government leaders all came together to discuss the technical, social, economic, and policy issues that are shaping the rapidly evolving ecosystems of work in a platform-based world.1 With their voices and diverse perspectives adding to IFTF’s own research, we have identified ten strategies for a workable future—ten strategies that address the compelling needs of all workers, while also recognizing the new opportunities inherent in a more distributed system of production at scales previously unknown to humanity.

This report is a call-to-action for others to join the conversation. While inspired by the workshop, the views expressed in this report do not necessarily represent those of the individual participants, nor do the participants necessarily endorse the conclusions.

10 strategies for a workable future

Often, when we think of digital platforms for work, we think of the nuts and bolts: the user interfaces, the APIs we’ll create and the ones we’ll plug into, the algorithms that will sometimes make our platforms smarter than any individual human, and of course, the entire infrastructure of data storage and communication in the cloud. These are necessary components of positive platforms, but we need to think beyond the technical and business model innovations that are driving this to a revolution in the workplace to build truly positive platforms.

We need to think of the upstream and downstream implications of individual features, rules and policies of platforms and the combined functionality they offer. We need to understand how information will flow not only from one platform to another but also through other socio-economic structures like corporate and government institutions. We need to anticipate how people will interact with these flows of information and how we will use them to shape new lifestyles, innovative economies, new kinds of communities, and novel forms of governance.

These ten strategies invite us to consider both the technical details and the broad policy questions that will help us build a workable future.


The Institute for the Future (IFTF) is an independent, nonprofit strategic research group with more than 47 years of forecasting experience. The core of our work is identifying emerging discontinuities that will transform global society and the global marketplace. We provide organizations with insights into business strategy, design process, innovation, and social dilemmas. Our research spans a broad territory of deeply transformative trends, from health and health care to technology, the workplace, and human identity. IFTF is based in Palo Alto, California

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