Work is undergoing a period of intense transformation. A recent conference featuring nonprofit leaders covered what needs to change, why, and how we get there.
“By choice, or out of necessity, how people make a living is undergoing fundamental change,” said Marina Gorbis, Executive Director of the Institute for the Future (IFTF), a 50-year-old nonprofit research and educational organization based in Palo Alto, CA. Her remarks closed the IFTF’s 14th annual conference, held this past April at The Center for Transformative Action at Mills College.
The conference, titled “The Great Awakening: Redefining Work, Values, and Purpose,” featured current questions, problems, and opportunities regarding the world of work. In light of the intense economic shift underway as workers continue to resign in record numbers and the labor movement experiences renewed energy, the conference sought to identify shifting perceptions about work, values, purpose, and justice. Its wide-ranging audience and participants—including grassroots leaders, business owners, politicians, social movement activists, and entrepreneurs—shared their insights, successes, and struggles to survive during unprecedented times.
Featured speakers included directors and leaders at several major nonprofit organizations—including the Institute for the Future, Common Future, Jobs with Justice, the Ford Foundation, Conscious Culture, and others— all of whom iterated variations on Gorbis’ concluding theme: “The way we work is not pre-ordained.”
Reworking Our Future
In 2021, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy made almost $213 million, or 6,474 times the company’s median worker salary of $32,855. The company claimed that the lion’s share of that number came from a stock award that Jassy received when he was made CEO after Jeff Bezos stepped down. This practice is not particular to Amazon: in the past three decades, CEO pay has soared by over 1,322 percent, while typical worker compensation has risen only 18 percent. These figures are so disproportionate because stock options have become an outsized form of compensation for those in the C-suite.