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THE IT FACTOR - Dishing about Decent Work and the Millennial Shift

Can’t unsee it? Do something about it.

Not long ago, I attended a live taping of Call Your Girlfriend with my co-worker Nora Cole. This weekly podcast is a fun and clever conversation between two long-distance friends who riff about politics and pop culture.

In a segment called “The Scam is Structural”, they reveal that the most nefarious scams in the buzziest stories have to do with the structural inequalities of wealth and power — like the Big Scam of the dubious influencer economy.

When structural inequality is uncovered, you can’t unsee it. The jig is up. You have to do something about it. But what?

Listening to the second episode in our third Just Work It podcast series, 2062: Beyond a Cartoon Future for Millennial Workers, is a good place to start. It’s a short one, just ten-minutes long. We’re calling the episode “Lighting Up the Economy.”

The Democracy Collaborative’s Ted Howard is my guest. Ted has been the Atkinson Foundation’s guide to practical solutions in response to growing income and wealth inequality for many years. He’s been inspiring our partners in Toronto, Hamilton, Windsor, London and beyond. In this episode, he sets up what it would take for the future of the economy to be fair and sustainable.

Ted points a brilliant light on the darker corners of the economic system — and our attitudes toward it. Get ready to see and do some new things!

Light up the economy!

Employment is up. Wages are down. Most people have fewer choices and chances. It doesn’t add up. Some people are throwing their hands in the air because they don’t believe the economic system can change. Others are simply throwing shade on it. We’re drawn to people who are taking action today to generate more opportunities and wealth for whole communities in the future, not just a few individuals.

Ted Howard is one of those people. Ted is the Co-founder and President of the Democracy Collaborative. He served as the Minter Senior Fellow for Social Justice with the Cleveland Foundation from 2010 to 2014. As an architect of Cleveland’s Evergreen Cooperatives, he worked with communities and local anchor institutions to create green jobs and build community wealth in low-income neighbourhoods.

In his own words, this is what Ted knows now that he didn’t know when he started out in the 1970s: “Ultimately, the lesson I’ve learned is we need to talk about who owns the economy and that’s at the very heart of our system. So if we want different outcomes, if we don’t want more wealth inequality, if we don’t want more racism, if we don’t want more climate change, we have got to look at how the economy is structured, who owns it, and go in and design it at the very heart of it, not along the peripheral edges.”

I keep this illustration by environmentalist Sarah Lazarovic on my magnet board at work to remind me that the steps between personal and systemic change can be hard to visualize. But all of us, combining our power, can create the laws, policies, regulations, and structures to shift how things work on a larger scale. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has!

Share your #LargeVision.

Rapper Cadence Weapon told the story behind his song Large in this video at My Labour Our Future, Atkinson’s celebration for the International Labour Organization’s centenary last year. We released this unofficial anthem for the decent work movement on November 28th, the date the first international labour standards were set in 1919. Armine Yalnizyan, a Just Work It Series 1 guest and the Atkinson Fellow on the Future of Workers, helped us capture our vision for workers. Check it out at #ILO100 and share your #LargeVision on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Just watch, listen and read it.

After listening to our third series, you can explore the big ideas at the centre of this podcast by checking out these links.

The Good Place television series wrapped up a few weeks ago and gave us new insights into economic systems change. Read here.

Just Work It’s Five Good Ideas on Podcasting with a Purpose from the Maytree Foundation’s series. Watch here.

No Little Plans podcast episode on UN Sustainable Development Goal 8 — Decent Work and Economic Growth — from the Community Foundations of Canada and Alliance 2030, featuring Deena Ladd from the Workers’ Action Centre and Sara Mojtehedzadeh, the Toronto Star‘s Work and Wealth reporter. Listen here.

This New York Times piece takes on ‘OK boomer’ and makes the case that intergenerational warfare is a distraction from a more urgent battle: closing the wealth gap. Read here.

Our community voice matters.

All we want is people at the centre, for residents to have a say in what’s happening in their neighbourhood.

— Mercedes Sharpe Zayas

Hear Mercedes talk about the Parkdale People’s Economy Project here.

Just Work It
Atkinson Foundation