From left: Heather Johnson, Ericsson’s VP for sustainability and social responsibility, Enrica Porcari, CIO of the World Food Program, and moderator Catherine Cheney of Devex.

The idea that every company is a tech company is well understood. Companies that don’t realize that aren’t cutting it. Meanwhile, the challenges facing the world have become even more daunting. Among the biggest: unaddressed climate change, dramatic growth in refugees for both political and economic reasons, threats to democracy, an unregulated global digital sphere, and a more and more palpable asymmetry between the power of business and the ineffectiveness of government.
From the beginning, Techonomy put a strong stake in the ground that progress for only some was insufficient. Just making business work better doesn’t excite us. Advancements in tech and business must lead to progress for all. No business strategy or advance in industry or technology should be pursued without a deliberate and thoughtful assessment of its impact on people and societies. The problems that have lately bubbled up from the technology industry underscore how urgent this is.
In 2018, we wanted to underscore the importance of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. If we don’t achieve these goals, which address pretty much all the issues of global human co-existence, we are all in serious trouble.
But the new element for 2019 is the urgent need to think more about collaboration of all sorts. To operate successfully in this new era, we are all going to have to learn to collaborate more. That was a key takeaway from our recent conference. The problems and opportunities faced by the world and the United States cannot be addressed by any sector or industry alone. (Rightly, the 17th and last goal of the U.N. SDGs is “Partnerships for the Goals.”)

What does the future of collaboration look like?

We are in a new period, where business aims to lead, partly because government has too often been paralyzed. We want to work at the intersection of all these forces, and inspire and inform our Techonomy community to figure out how all of us can be more successful by collaborating more.
Business & Government
Business can find new ways of working with and supporting government. One way may be by emphasizing that there is a bottom line — clear-cut and conclusive evidence of success or failure. If we do not address certain key problems, we will all have failed, period.
Public-Private Partnerships
At our recent conference, an executive from Ericsson, a company we spend lots of time with, spoke on stage with a leader of the U.N.’s World Food Program to discuss how for years the two organizations have operated a joint rapid response team to deploy in emergencies and disasters.
Cross-Industry Team-Ups
We’re also intrigued to see some of the ways businesses themselves have come together in new combinations to achieve big goals, often involving tech. A provocative example is the new partnership between Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, and Berkshire Hathaway to come up with innovative new approaches to healthcare. Initially it’s for their employees, but the implications could be felt nationally.
Elevating Stakeholders
Then there are all the ways companies can work with their so-called “stakeholders” — collaborating more consciously with workers, suppliers, customers, and investors. Among investors in particular, tectonic shifts are underway, especially around climate change. The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, with offices in London, aims to “mobilize capital for the low carbon future by amplifying the investor voice and collaborating with business, policymakers and investors.” Its members collectively control around $23 trillion in investment assets. And an even larger investor group called Climate Action 100+ aims “to engage systemically important greenhouse gas emitters and other companies across the global economy…to drive the clean energy transition and help achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.” The existence of such groups is a sea change.
It still remains true that tech, applied consciously and responsibly, will be a lever for positive and even world-altering change.


Join the discussion about collaborating for responsible growth at these upcoming Techonomy Events