To better address emerging issues in a society altered by shocks to its economic, political, and technological systems, Omidyar Network has announced significant changes to its focus areas, approach, and initiatives.
In a blog post, Omidyar Network managing partner Mike Kubzansky outlined three principal changes. First, ON will focus on a core set of pressing, difficult, and deeper issues that have emerged across four areas — reimagining capitalism; promoting the beneficial use of technology; building bridges in a pluralistic world; and fostering individual capabilities and empowerment.
"The Great Recession of 2008 reshaped the global economy and amplified already rising inequality, wage stagnation, and deep economic insecurity for average workers," writes Kubzansky. "Recent elections around the globe have revealed long-simmering cultural tensions, xenophobia, and distrust. Many technologies have revealed their dark side. Technologies and business models have commercialized our private data, driven or allowed unethical use, and generated unintended consequences that have reshaped economic, political, and social behavior in ways that challenge long-held assumptions and social cohesion."
Second, the organization will create an innovation business unit with a mandate to support research in the new issue areas; experiment with new approaches and tools designed to drive impact; and further develop how it contributes to, affects, and helps inform ideas, assumptions, and policies related to its work.
And third, the organization will spin off some long-standing initiatives as independent organizations, starting with the spinoff of the U.S. Emerging Tech initiative as Spero earlier this year and the Governance & Citizen Engagement initiative, which will be spun off as a new organization called Luminate. Both entities will continue to be funded by Pierre and Pam Omidyar through the Omidyar Group, while ON will continue to support initiatives in the areas of Education, Financial Inclusion, Digital Identity, and Property Rights, as well as its Tech and Society Solutions Lab.
"No matter how things change, our role at Omidyar Network has always been to be clear-eyed about the world around us, and to take action where we feel that we can be catalytic by driving innovation, finding new ways of approaching issues, and creating solutions," wrote Kubzansky. "It also has been to partner with others who share our vision and commitment, because we recognize that issues of global scope will take global resources to solve."