PopTech and the Rockefeller Foundation are partners on a joint Fellows program that brings together small, interdisciplinary groups of five to six hand-selected designers, economists, technologists, artists and social innovators for a two-week immersion at the Rockefeller Foundation’s renowned Bellagio Center on the shores of Lake Como, Italy.

The Bellagio/PopTech Fellows program is designed to be a unique incubator of unconventional, cross-disciplinary collaboration around critical topics relevant to the lives of poor and vulnerable populations, and also serves as a laboratory for the study of the nature of collaboration itself as a profound tool for creative problem-solving and solution development.

Fellows receive travel, lodging and facilitated support on-site as they work together to imagine new approaches to complex challenges. A short documentary is produced to highlight their work and process.

The 2014 program will take place August 18-29, and will be followed by a joint presentation at the PopTech conference in Camden, Maine, from October 23-25, 2014.

2014 Program Focus: Rethinking Livelihoods

The second year of the Bellagio/PopTech Fellows program will focus on rethinking livelihoods, from the inside out and from the outside in.

A multitude of new trends, new ideas and forces of change are reshaping possibilities for livelihoods, creating the opportunity – and urgent need – for a new conversation.

Around the world, lower- and middle-income societies are contending with a series of unbuffered and accelerating challenges. While there is no one single narrative, there are many interconnected themes, including:

  • Demographic shifts, including a shift from rural to urban population centers, changing family structure, evolving roles for women, the greying of society and/or a youth bulge.
  • Environmental stressors and climate changes which make some traditional livelihoods, like agriculture, less predictable.
  • Unrestrained financial capital flows, which surge around the globe, connecting societies to global markets while exposing them to global competition.
  • Emerging technological change, which connects individuals, enterprises and stakeholders to opportunities around the world, even as automation and new manufacturing tools eliminate some jobs and create others.
  • Changing economic growth patterns and labor markets, which shift opportunities across and within countries and communities.

These forces – and many others – shape the possibilities and strategies for creating and sustaining livelihoods in a society. They are mirrored by a set of questions, tensions and dilemmas within the livelihoods frame:

  • Can the positive and negative disruptive impacts of technology be amplified, channeled, managed and/or softened as needed?
  • Does the developmental paradigm, which puts an emphasis on societies’ transition to consumer-driven market economies, need to be rethought in an era of environmental stresses and resource constraints?
  • What’s the goal of a livelihoods strategy? Full employment? Poverty alleviation? Entrepreneurship? Innovation? Growth? Stability? Social coherence? Economic inclusion?
  • What should be the locus of effort? The formal sector? The informal sector?

At the 2014 Bellagio/PopTech Fellows program, we’ll take an “outside-in” look at the externalities and forces that are reshaping the livelihoods discussion and an “inside-out” look at exemplars of livelihoods success. Then, we’ll work to articulate and refine complementary principles that can inform and drive future efforts to improve livelihoods.

Meet the 2014 Fellows