Economic growth: inclusive, green, no-cost.

What now?

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As times change, we aim to see a first country or region asking questions that can lead to a Modern Markets for All policy. Our experience with part of the vision in Europe and the US provides a roadmap.

 

 

 

 

The time is right

Recent digital developments have reassigned trillions, undermined democracies and driven social pressures to boiling. That has pushed the window for policy options politicians can promote without ridicule. We needed it to include:

  • Questioning of current markets: When billionaires are renouncing the system that made them rich and 40% see socialism as preferable to capitalism even in America, laisses faire is no longer impenetrable.

 

  • A Techlash: it seems like another era but, until recently, Silicon Valley behemoths were widely appreciated as innovators and agents of economic growth. This fueled a view they should be left to get on with digitizing the world, rather than suffer any sustained counterbalancing government vision for digital technology as a social enabler.

 

  • Environmentalism in the mainstream: Better markets may seem tangential to climate concerns. But increasing awareness that consumption and travel have to diminish, drives the case for localized, responsive, rental based, economies.

 

There’s another factor that hasn’t gained traction yet. In October 2019, Uberworks was born in Chicago. It’s Uber’s bid to shift from running ride-hailing to running a full labor market. We don’t know if they will replicate the formula that investors loved in their ride-hailing operations. Or how regulators will react. But it should focus minds on the quality of new labor markets.

 

Establishing an organization

We aim to set up a formal organization, the Modern Markets for All Foundation. Mission Statement: “We work towards everyone in the world able to sell their skills and assets in the best possible markets”. That journey requires some key strands of work:

  • Marketing: Issues around current market inequality need profile and scrutiny. We have worked with think tanks and journalists around the world to deliver this on the “gig work” mission.

 

  • Sales: We aim to support countries and regions moving towards a public option for online markets. Big Finance also need outreach. They are not the enemy; we want them to do for everyone else what they did for themselves.

 

  • Product development: Sophisticated – but easy to use – software to drive these markets needs to be continuously developed, tested, used, refined. The brains and resources in big tech companies could help enormously.

We see the organization as non-profit, dedicated to open sourcing its outputs. Here’s why. Our model is the Linux Foundation. Turning over $80m a year it has enabled others to build multi-billion dollar corporations reselling its products. But the Foundation is a neutral, stable, credible advocate and arbiter of the technology that now powers 95% of the world’s large servers.

But healthy markets require more than tech. We have to guard against not just bad code but inadequate institutions around public markets in any territory. We can be neutral assessors, regularly ranking installations against a ten point checklist that ensures best possible markets under local control. This function is comparable to the way Mastercard or Visa award their coveted badges only to card issuers meeting transparent standards.

And, if we are to take our mission statement seriously, there’s a possibility of having to operate markets directly. It’s obviously undesirable to act as regulator and operator. The arrangement should only ever be temporary. But if we believe even people in occupied territories, disputed lands, failed states or warzones are entitled to a public option for Modern Markets, we have to accept serving them may not be a commercial opportunity. It could be there is no-one else qualified and motivated to run a platform.

 

Ready for the rough

No serious policy proposal should aspire to an easy ride. Our plans and operations should be scrutinized, scrubbed of messy thinking and confronted from a range of viewpoints. But, we have years of experience in government innovation and we have observed the fate of other policy entrepreneurs. It’s naïve to think we will encounter only productive, intellectual, challenges. We anticipate:

  • Paralysis by Analysis: Philanthropies and public bodies can be cautious about getting ahead of the curve on economic changes. That’s for good reasons; they fear wasting precious resources. But there comes a point where commissioning more research or waiting for trends to become clear allows problems to worsen. Meanwhile solutions that may not be perfect, but are a start, wither from lack of interest.

 

  • Not invented here syndrome: Corporates, governments, academics, philanthropies will put resources into their own take on the concepts in this site rather than contributing to broader momentum.

 

  • Language hijacking: If our marketing plan succeeds, expect to see terms like “public option for markets”, “Modern Markets for All” and “POEMs” bandied by people with no real commitment to the principles we are trying to embed in those terms. The second two terms were effectively virginal when we coined them.

 

  • Inflammatory issues: Early railway acts were hindered by a view from religious leaders that smoking, sparking, locomotives roaring through the countryside would inevitably summon the devil. We will experience these kinds of emotional hooks applied to some aspect of operations.

 

  • Watering down: Early implementations of POEMs will likely be subtly limited to protect vested interests. It could be the only way to navigate passage of legislation. But if public interest is aroused, expect further jurisdictions to be more assertive about ensuring their citizens have untrammeled access to Modern Markets.

 

The complication underlying all this is; there isn’t a natural constituency for Modern Markets for All. It fits either side of the aisle. Our opposition will likely be shape-shifting. If POEMs looks set to become reality, watch out for bodies akin to Californians for the Environment and Recycling, set up by the plastics lobby to delay controls on pollution-causing packaging. Or anticipate operations such as Monsanto’s “intelligence fusion center” which has monitored campaigners seeking controls on pesticides. A cause may be overdue; that doesn’t mean it can assume a straightforward hearing.

 

 

Our strategy

Preparing for a publicly-minded infrastructure campaign in the era of fake news, polarizing content filters and global provocateurs seems to call for some key precautions:

  • Financial sustainability: We have to build a base of corporate donors who robustly support us because they see commercial opportunity.

 

  • Resist small scale launches: We have seen this in our projects around gig-work markets; you can’t change the system by starting in small increments. We can launch POEMs in small territories but only with big resources. Temptation to try proving our case with inadequate tools is setting ourselves up to fail.

 

  • Independence: We have to be aggressively apolitical. If all the enthusiasm comes from one end of the political spectrum, that’s where we have to work. But we are open to anyone who accepts the principles to which we are committed and can significantly move the dial on our mission.

 

  • Cast the net wide: We won’t focus narrowly on one or two territories and try to launch POEMs there. That risks being impaled on political changes or internal missteps. Instead, we aim to engage multiple international economic development bodies then talk to as many countries/regions as we can. A hotlist of our top ten most promising jurisdictions can be published monthly with any government on it prone to being bumped down if there’s more action towards legislation elsewhere.

 

  • Enable self-help: We aim to have a webhub which shares learning, connects open source developers and empowers anyone aiming to be a policy entrepreneur in their country. If you want to see POEMs happen where you live and are realistic about working through thinktanks, political advisors and media for a couple of years; we aim to give you every document you will need for local adaptation. When a politician decides to commission an exploratory project, our website offers a manual with suggested steps for the Project Manager.

 

  • Tell our story: Setting out to reset world capitalism is exciting. There will be mistakes, misapprehensions, and mischaracterization. We should generate lively vblogs, articles and earned media that turns it all into an awareness raising narrative arc.

 

And even before any launches, our Foundation has to live by the principles POEMs demands; transparency, fairness, sharing of data while protecting individual parties’ privacy.

 

Where does it start?

We have fledgling markets for hourly labor operating in Los Angeles. Continuing to develop that technology and learning underpins a wider journey to equitable markets that can start as resources are found. It won’t be easy. But enormous social good could flow from just repeatedly asking the question: “Do local people and businesses have access to the best markets now possible?” Our findings can inform thinking on a range of social solutions.

We are looking for leaders who see first mover advantage for their company, institution or government from working with us. They will be driven by a range of factors; pragmatic, partisan, principled or prescient. But support for these pioneers – while ensuring each continues to merit a place on our competitive “Movers list’ – will quickly deepen our understanding of how to best deliver the mission.

Immediate outcomes a team could be pursuing: Who at the World Bank might scrutinize the possibilities of public official e-markets? Which of the world’s Ministries for Innovation will be most receptive? Could policy analysts for a first 2020 American Presidential candidate be induced to make Modern Markets for All a commitment? How easily could India’s Aadhaar digital-identity system evolve into POEMs? Which British Members of Parliament might be sympathetic to a post-Brexit private member’s bill? History suggests the kind of service we call POEMs is inevitable. But there will be many cliff-hangers on the way.

 

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