April 29, 2024 – Future of Work

ASU+GSV: Finding bottom-up solutions that help people pursue purposeful work


Every April, the ASU+GSV Summit brings together the country’s leading educators, innovators, and philanthropists to ask how they can empower more people to access the future they dream of. 

For the Charles Koch Foundation (CKF), fulfilling that mission means fostering solutions that help Americans identify their unique interests, turn those interests into skills, and use the resulting talents in pursuit of purposeful work. CKF and its partners were part of several conversations at ASU+GSV. Here are our takeaways. 

An openness to digital tools will strengthen the workforce

Artificial intelligence. Augmented reality. Blockchain.

Workers worry these advancements could eliminate their jobs. Employers, meanwhile, are excited about how innovative tools could improve operations — even if they are a little daunted by how to implement technology.

CKF’s Mackenzie Staab joined a panel of leaders from Arizona State University, Jobs for the Future, and Walmart to discuss how to transform the challenges posed by digital technologies into opportunities for personal and organizational growth. 

Instead of fearing advances like artificial intelligence, for example, the panelists were optimistic that employers and employees both can transform anxiety into action and turn the tide of technological change to their advantage.

“For the Charles Koch Foundation, one thing that really drives us in this new digital space is the principle of openness,” Staab said. “This is not a new space. There have been a lot of these kinds of rapid technological advancements in our history and we have seen in the past that when we’ve been open to these and explored them, we’ve seen great progress.”

To match people with purpose, employers also must rethink hiring

Major U.S. employers — from Fortune 500 companies to state and federal governments — have announced their intentions to move away from four-year degrees as a requirement for a job. For this type of skills-based hiring to truly catch on, however, employers need to change their mindset, and their culture. They need to consider each applicant and judge them based on their unique ability to contribute to the organization. 

This shift will, of course, require employers to have new tools for measurement.  

In a panel moderated by the Charles Koch Foundation’s Laura Demarse, participants discussed the challenges and opportunities to establish a universally accepted framework for skills measurement, mapping, and tracking. 

“We are an organization that believes deeply that all individuals should be given the opportunity to identify, develop, and apply their unique gifts and skills in the workplace,” Demarse said. “Employers that allow people to do that win customers by creating an empowerment culture.”

One potential partner to find new talent is Aspire Ability, a community talent marketplace whose mission is to increase the incomes of one million people by 30 percent or more through jobs that provide purpose, along with a thriving wage. Aspire Ability allows both employers and applicants to see what type of skills are needed for certain jobs, and it offers job seekers access to programs they can use to address competency gaps that might keep them from getting that job.

Another option is the Postsecondary Commission (PSC), which will evaluate and validate organizations that are preparing people for purposeful work. Specifically, PSC accredits institutions that produce strong economic returns for students, are transparent about their results, agree to be held accountable for student outcomes, and are innovative in their work.

The most effective educators and training providers are working directly with employers to train people for purposeful work.

“[E]very person has unlimited potential,” Staab said. “That’s where having the training providers and educational programs set up in a way that we can upskill and reskill and use these new technologies as a tool to help us contribute more, not just for ourselves but for others as well.”