How We’re Incubating Brilliant Ideas to Transform our Economy

  • Essential Common Future

Jul 27, 2022 Lauren Paul

Learn how we’re be supporting leaders in policy who are building power, choice and ownership in under-resourced communities across the country

We’re on the brink of an economic recession — many say that we’re already there. Concentrated ownership, unfair markets, and inefficient capital flows keep marginalized communities from achieving their full economic potential — producing major negative impacts for all of us. Economic inequality has already cost the U.S. $23T over the past 30 years. Elevating new leadership in the economic policy space could help us mitigate these impacts and build a more stable economic future.

Over the past 22 years at Common Future, we’ve worked with over 300 innovative leaders, across more than 35 states in the U.S. and Canada, specifically targeting those who work in deep partnership with their communities to build wealth, power, and ownership for under-resourced groups. All too often, the most brilliant community-informed leaders aren’t able to make the time and space necessary to focus on policy-related endeavors. Moreover, these leaders often don’t have access to the necessary platforms to get heard.

As a bridge building organization, we’ve also seen first-hand that leaders in government continue to look to the same actors to define economic policy. Specific degrees and sets of experiences are prized over others — namely, grounded, data-informed leaders who weave together the lived experience of their communities with a vision for transformative change are systematically excluded from high impact conversations.

At Common Future, we’re attempting to change this dynamic. Next week, we’re so excited to share that we’ve selected our first cohort of Common Future Policy Entrepreneurs — innovators in the economic policy realm — who are moving game-changing ideas and strategies forward. Our team has over 50 years of cumulative experience designing incubation and accelerator programs for tech entrepreneurs, non-profit leaders, and foundation executives. Many of us are entrepreneurs ourselves and understand what it takes to bring an idea to life. We’re applying similar strategies to the issues that affect our lives the most. Through this initiative, we’re:

  1. Incubating field-defining policy interventions alongside the leaders who are best positioned to lead in both the design and execution of the work. By providing legal workshops, strategy council, and connections to industry leaders, we’ll help leaders turn their ideas into action.
  2. Co-creating solutions by calling in diverse expertise. By creating more access points for philanthropists, innovators, consultants, and industry experts to support the work, we’re building larger and smarter tables.
  3. Funding promising work — often providing the initial funding for new policy projects and validating future investments.
  4. Influencing the players that need to hear from our leaders most. We do this in a number of ways, from pulling together exclusive round tables to helping leaders articulate the importance of their work. We’re creating the conditions for bold ideas to be heard.

Though we’re calling this an incubator, we’re going well beyond the typical things you would see in an incubator, accelerator, or fellowship. For us, incubation means thinking about this project as an experiment where we are:

  1. Learning with and from our policy entrepreneurs, and asking how can we turn big policy ideas into action?
  2. Learning from economic policy experts, and asking what’s needed from the economic policy development and advocacy sector?
  3. Learning from the field at-large, and asking how might build a more inclusive economy where all people have power, choice and ownership over their economic futures?

Grounded in the lived experience of community leaders who experience economic inequities every day, we’ll be modeling a new way of thinking and working for economic think and do tanks. We believe that the principles, models, and solutions of a more inclusive economy already exist, led by those closest to the problems — they just require attention and investment.

After a robust program design and selection process, leveraging the expertise of a broad and impressive group of organizations, including leaders at Dalberg Advisors, American Economic Liberties Project, Pacific Community Ventures, Liberation in a Generation, Small Business Majority, Cortex Innovation Communit, Local First AZ and Orrick, we’re thrilled to be working with incredible leaders who are taking bold action on behalf of their communities.

Stay tuned for the big news next week, as we incubate equitable solutions, building models for the economy we want to see.

Want to learn more? Follow along to get insights and lessons from our policy experiment building a more collaborative and representative economic think-and-do tank. Want to work with our existing policy entrepreneurs? Reach out to explore what partnership could look like.


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