Uncovering New Takes on Inclusive Growth

October 2, 2015

We speak with Ricardo Hausmann on why the ideas being discussed at the Symposium for Inclusive Growth at Harvard today represent a new take on how to foster inclusive growth

Hosted by the World Economic Forum, Harvard’s Center for International Development and the MasterCard for Inclusive Growth, the Symposium for Inclusive Growth will discuss 11 innovative ideas culled from more than 130 proposals sent this year detailing new ways of thinking about inclusive growth. As the event kicks off, we spoke with one of the organizers, Ricardo Hausmann, about why the ideas being discussed today are unique, and how this event can help advance ideas and action on inclusive growth.

Q: How did this event come together?

A: As you know, this is an initiative of the World Economic Forum’s Meta Council on Inclusive Growth. As we ended up focusing on 11 out of the 130 proposals, which we felt were new ideas in new areas, we started to think, not only should we recognize these ideas, we should provide a forum to improve them by subjecting them to review by others, and also call attention to them.


Q: What are some of the most important themes of the proposals?

A: One important cross-theme is the way the authors positioned the problem driving exclusion that they wanted to solve: namely, that people don’t have access to some critical networks. This matters because access to networks is important in making people more productive and, therefore, earn higher wages. What many of the proposals ask is: How do we help remove current barriers to access?

Just to give one example, consider Roma people in Europe, who are not born in the “right places” and face labor markets that aren’t transparent. One proposal asks, How can Roma signal to would-be employers the contributions they might make? Another proposal considers a very different kind of network. It first considers retailers that have access to technology for managing inventory and analyzing sales. It then asks how mom-and-pop shops might enter that same technological playing field.

This example is significant because it highlights the important contributions the proposals make. They don’t just look at the problem of exclusion from a new angle, they work towards actionable solutions. The proposal concerning mom-and-pop shops doesn’t just examine how equipping them with the same technology big retailers use would make them more productive—it looks at how the cost of this technology could be lowered to make it practical for their use.

Q: What’s been most surprising for you in pulling this event together?

A: What’s surprising is that the topics that are cutting-edge today are not already in the mainstream. Today, everyone is talking about microlending and financial literacy. We didn’t get any submissions in those areas—but we did get some about connecting the poor to global capital markets. Also, we received many which solve problems. Much of that deals with using technology to signal to potential employers and even schools where there is untapped talent that’s currently being excluded from these networks. Really, it’s about finding new and less-trodden paths, figuratively, and in one case literally. We have a proposal that explores how, in the absence of the fulfillment chains that retailers enjoy in the United States or Europe, people in parts of Africa might make use of widely available, inexpensive motorcycles there to serve as a kind of ”Uber for Fedex.” It’s quite an expansive agenda that is united by some common themes.

Q: What’s your hope for how this event can create momentum for change?

Well, to start with, we’ll be publishing all of the 130 submissions. But we’ll also be publishing the 11 that were chosen with expanded detail and commentary to encourage people to put these ideas into use and mobilize resources for implementation. And, ideally, it will encourage other people to understand these ideas so that they can build on them, develop them and take them in other directions. In essence, our hope is that the event will expand the universe of thought in this area.

You can check out the 11 proposals here: http://projects.iq.harvard.edu/movingdevelopment/proposals

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