i4j DC Leadership Forum – Project Plan

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i4j Leadership Forum on Innovation for Jobs Policy

Sep 1, Washington DC – (conference page here)

There are silos in government: Labor policy is for workers. Innovation policy is for entrepreneurs. So what about innovation for jobs policy? The U.S. spends yearly in the order of $100B in unemployment insurance. How can this relate to supporting innovative entrepreneurs to start companies that eradicate joblessness?

The i4j Leadership Forum will exchange ideas about how a new generation of U.S. innovation for jobs policies for ‘disrupting unemployment’, eradicating joblessness, can look like and how they can come about.


  1. Presenting actionable ideas for innovation for jobs policies and approaches.  Examples include entrepreneurial initiatives to assist people to earn a better living doing more meaningful work.  Also support and analyze entrepreneurial efforts to disrupt unemployment by reducing the “friction” in placing people in jobs they qualify for and/or can fill with some targeted training/retraining.
  2. presenting and discussing the i4j Book 2015 prior to its publication. The book contains a) a summary of ideas presented at i4j 2013-2015, an expansion of the i4j DC Paris Report “How to Disrupt Unemployment” and b) individual chapters written by selected i4j participants.


Direct beneficiaries will be policy makers, entrepreneurs, foundations interested in innovation and job creation, and corporations interested in the “new world of work.”

Mission Statement


In the US, more than 35% of the adult population is not participating in the work force. Seven out of ten employees are not engaged in their work. A considerable reduction in this unengaged working age population would reduce inefficiencies in the labor market and provide for greater output and economic growth.

In other words, the majority of human capacity remains an untapped resource.

Modern technology can match people and opportunities better. If jobs and training can be tailored to the unique skills, talents and passions of individuals this can increase value creation and potentially ‘disrupt unemployment’. It is an opportunity for an entrepreneurial “innovation for jobs” ecosystem.

Policies for innovation for jobs and disrupting unemployment are non-trivial. They transcend the traditional barriers between labor, education and innovation policy.

Relevance to ongoing discussions

There is a growing interest in the future of jobs, how to organize the work force, and its relation to innovation. Recently, there has been a growing interest among entrepreneurs and investors to address this field.

i4j’s focus on enabling an innovation for jobs ecosystem ‘disrupting unemployment’ matches the surge of activities addressing technological unemployment. This conference will be headlined by presentations from ongoing initiatives.


  • Co-organized by IIIJ, Google, Kauffman Foundation. Hosted by Google DC
  • One full day
  • Open discussion between thought leaders from relevant stakeholder groups.
  • Highly interactive, max 50 people, no keynotes or panels. Chatham House Rules.
  • Focus on actionable ideas for innovation for jobs policy / how i4j can facilitate
  • No push for consensus.
  • Presentation of papers, lightning talks, plenary and group discussions
  • Presentation of the i4j ECO Summit ecosystem conference in Silicon Valley Jan 2016
  • Discussion what i4j can/should do next to facilitate
  • Documentation:

The i4j 2015 book 

  • Draft Presented at the Leadership Forum
    • Final edit afterwards
  • Book published in cooperation with the Kauffman Foundation (ref. DaneStangler)
    • Aim: Publication in Q3/Q4.
  • Objective: The book will introduce policy intellectuals to ‘Disrupting Unemployment’ ,‘Innovation for jobs”, “innovation for jobs ecosystem” and related key concepts. Introduce multidisciplinary, multistakeholder narrative, enabling stakeholder groups to engage in the concepts.
  • Structure: Part 1: ideas from i4j so far. Part 2: Chapters by invited thought leaders.
  • EditorsVint CerfDavid NordforsMax SengesJulia Kirby + EMKF Representatives.

Examples of what can be discussion topics to be discussed at the forum:

  • DOL and SBIR: The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) encourages domestic small businesses to engage in Federal Research/Research and Development (R/R&D) that has the potential for commercialization. .Federal agencies with extramural R&D budgets exceeding $100M participate in the SBIR program. The DOL is not one of these agencies, although it has R&D programs such as the workforce innovation fund that can sum up to $100M. Can DOL and SBIR be a fit for innovation for jobs?
  • Innovation for Jobs Venture Capital Funds: Imagine using 1% of the unemployment support money to match private venture capital in “innovation for jobs” VC funds. Private investors have the option of buying out the government within five years.If the investments are successful, government gets back the money. Investors get all the upside for half the risk. The model was successfully applied for bootstrapping the venture capital industry in Israel in the early 90s. Will a program like this create “innovation for jobs” VC funds? Do investors want it? Can governments do it? Which part of government is the best player?
  • Economic Indicators: Imagine approaching the Treasury Department with a policy proposal suggesting the use of unemployment funds for spurring innovation for jobs, as above. A typical question would be “how many jobs will this create and how soon?”. Is it possible to construct economic indicators that can answer that question sufficiently well to satisfy the Treasury? Are there other types of indicators that can argue sufficiently well for innovation for jobs in other ways? Are there alternative ways of addressing the issue of using unemployment support funds for innovation for jobs?

Examples of challenges reflected by the topics

  • Under which circumstances it can be acceptable to use labor budget, e.g. unemployment insurance, for innovation for jobs programs, requirement to be fulfilled and examples of what it can look like.
  • Examples of how to run programs across relevant departments, combining jobs, education, business, science, technology and other interlinked topics.
  • Examples of programs suitable for different levels of governance: federal, state, and local.
  • Examples of meaningful successful public-private interaction
  • Combining the macro view of the worker and consumer as the same person with the business view of the worker and the consumer as different people.

Examples of broader perspectives addressed by the topic

  • How to measure the success of innovative entrepreneurship in terms of sustainable improvement in job creation, inclusion and job satisfaction.
  • How to measure the success of job creation in terms of economic growth.
  • How to measure the success of combined innovation and job creation in ways that align economic growth and improved wellbeing.

David Nordfors

David Nordfors is CEO and co-founder of IIIJ and the chair of the i4j Summit. He was previously co-founder and Executive Director of the Center for Innovation and Communication at Stanford University. He was one of the World Economic Forum Innovation 100 in 2009, and has served on WEF Global Agenda Councils. He serves on advisory boards of the Poynter Institute, Discern Investment Analytics and Black & Veatch. He is an adjunct professor at IDC Herzliya in Israel, a visiting professor at Tallinn University, the Tecnologico de Monterrey, and the Deutsche Welle Akademie. He was advisor to the Director General at VINNOVA, the Swedish Agency for Innovation Systems, where he co-initiated the national Swedish Incubator System and set up a bi-national R&D fund between Sweden and Israel for mobile applications. He was Director of Research Funding of the Knowledge Foundation, KK-stiftelsen, administering an endowment of $300MUSD, building a funding framework underwriting over a hundred innovation initiatives between universities and industry. He initiated and headed the first hearing about the Internet to be held by the Swedish Parliament. He has a Ph.D. in physics from the Uppsala University and did his postdoc in Theoretical Chemistry in Heidelberg, Germany.