faculty & experts
14 December 2020

International Community Convenes at the Future of Work Summit

“Anybody who’s thinking about societal change really should start with work and the dynamics of work”. These were the encouraging words of Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in the opening plenary of the Future of Work Summit, held online on 4 December. 

The Future of Work Summit brought together the international community from Geneva and beyond, to explore the unprecedented changes to work as we know it over the course of 2020 and their implications for the future. Over 400 people from academia, business, government, and civil society joined the event from every continent across the globe. 

Mr. Ryder was joined in the opening plenary of the Summit by Marie-Laure Salles, Director of the Graduate Institute, Geneva, and Boris Zürcher, Head of the Labour Affairs Directorate at the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs of Switzerland.  Ms. Salles set the tone for the event with her opening words: “The future of work is for us to construct. We have a strong responsibility to co-construct a future of work that leads us to a society that is more inclusive, more sustainable and that projects different sets of values than the ones that were shaping our workplaces and societies in recent years. We should be the masters of work, and not work be the masters of us.”

The event served as a launch of the new Thinking Ahead on Societal Change (TASC) Platform: an open forum where the diverse stakeholders involved can come together to tackle some of the biggest universal challenges of the future. The TASC Platform was proposed at the first Future of Work Summit in 2019, announced by the Swiss President, Simonetta Sommaruga at the ILO Summit on COVID-19 and the World of Work, and is now hosted by the Center for Trade and Economic Integration at the Graduate Institute, Geneva.

Conversations throughout the day explored the Future of Work through the lens of COVID-19, framed around three areas of change that have been accelerated and amplified by the pandemic and resulting socio-economic crisis: working on the frontline, working online and working in radical uncertainty. The programme featured 30 organisations and 50 speakers, diving into these three transformative issues in a series of plenary and breakout discussions.

The discussions throughout the day were hosted and moderated by the TASC Platform co-chairs, Graduate Institute Professors Cédric Dupont and Richard Baldwin, together with Kitrhona Cerri, Executive Director of the TASC Platform. Also playing a prominent role were the TASC Platform’s Future Leaders team – a panel of students and young professionals with an occupational, academic or personal interest in the Future of Work. Throughout the event they posed questions to our panelists and participated in discussions to bring a fresh perspective.

Summarising his take-aways, Professor Dupont highlighted that “the future is human, interdependent and collective. [...] We don’t have to imagine only a future based on technology. We must remain open to different futures [...] and we must consider how we reshape our organisations and institutions for work. Let’s be more provocative!”

Professor Baldwin closed with the observations that there is a big appetite for more understanding, more discussion and more analysis sharing that will need to be both more global and more interdisciplinary. “The next two years is going to be a wild ride for the future of work. So buckle up and join us in thinking ahead on societal change”. 

Find out more, access session recordings and insights shared on the event hub: The Future of Work Summit TASC Exchange.