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Rebooting the Innovation Agenda – The Need for Resilient Institutions

Understanding how innovation and disruption are both stabilizing and destabilizing forces is key to economic development and global stability. As technology continuously advances, it is fundamentally changing—or in other words, disrupting—the horizons of the human experience at a frequency and depth not previously encountered. The pace of these disruptions alters how we communicate, socialize, govern, and trade.

Today and into tomorrow, institutions must be resilient and reorient themselves to manage the increased pace of disruption, while doing so in a way that is inclusive and supportive of the public, private, and community sectors. As leaders in economic and global development, we must determine how best to approach innovation and disruption, as well as establish the key questions to ask ourselves during the process.

On March 13, 2019, RTI International and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), launched “Rebooting the Innovation Agenda,” a report focused on providing insights into the challenges of disruption and innovation. Authored by Jeff Alexander and Sara Lawrence (RTI International) and Sundar Ramanujan and Erol Yaboke (CSIS), the report examines the existential balancing act facing governments, institutions, civil society, and the private sector. Additionally, CSIS and RTI produced a five-part podcast series on salient issues that they identified during research on these issues.

The report is the result of a yearlong project to better understand the identified issues by facilitating dialogs with policy, tech, and finance stakeholders.

“This report represents an important contribution to considerations that policy, technology, private sector, and community actors must consider and address with respect to managing innovation and disruption.” said Tim Gabel, Executive Vice President, Social, Statistical, and Environmental Sciences, RTI International. “These are critical issues that our research teams at RTI are working to better understand so that we can more effectively identify solutions that work best for all stakeholders. Our partnership with CSIS provided a wonderful opportunity to conduct this research collaboratively and amplify the conclusions and recommendations in this report.”

The report’s findings are based on a series of podcast discussions, as well as three roundtables that took place in New York City, Palo Alto, California, and Washington, DC, respectively, about research conducted by RTI and CSIS in 2017. It provides insights and recommendations for consideration and guidance to all stakeholders for leveraging disruption while guarding against the potential instability it can bring.

“Our report points out that the challenge to nation-states, especially emerging economies, isn’t just disruption, but amplified disruption from successive waves of emerging technologies. And the disruption won’t only be economic—it will be social and political, as well,” explained author Jeff Alexander, RTI International. “What is striking is that across all the stakeholder groups involved in our discussions—policy, philanthropy, finance, and technology—none tried to say ‘this isn’t my problem.’ They all recognized that the coming waves of disruption will require new responses from their own sectors of the economy and new modes of cross-sectoral collaboration to formulate comprehensive solutions. These bonds across institutions enable resilience in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

The report is meant to foster discussion and serve as a call to action to all practitioners to consider the myriad of impact pathways that are affected by innovation and disruption across the globe. Report author Sara Lawrence reminds us, “Now is the time to seed new ways to organize, plan, invest, and work that take maximum advantage of the economic development potential of the fourth industrial revolution for the places and people experiencing the disruption already underway.”

To download the full report please click here.

The podcasts, which are part of the Building the Future: Freedom, Prosperity and Foreign Policy with Dan Runde series, can also be downloaded from the CSIS website by clicking on each episode below.

The five-episode series includes 

  • Episode 1: Approaching Human Capital Development with Susan Lund (McKinsey & Co.) and Eric Johnson (RTI International)
  • Episode 2: Risks and De-risking Innovation with Steve Zausner (Fission Ventures) and Jason Norman (RTI International)
  • Episode 3: The New Social Contract with Klaus Tilmes (World Bank) and Paul Weisenfeld (RTI International)
  • Episode 4: Enabling Environment for Innovation with Philip Auserwald (George Mason University) and Jeff Alexander (RTI International).
  • Episode 5: Cities, Inequality and Migration with Jessica Brandt (Brookings Institute) and Sara Lawrence (RTI International)
Disclaimer: This piece was written by David Spiro (Vice President, Food Security, Agriculture, Environment and Water) to share perspectives on a topic of interest. Expression of opinions within are those of the author or authors.