People on the Move

2016 GPF Conference | April 4-6 | Redwood City, California


People are on the move as never before.

In India, China, Nigeria and other fast-growing economies, millions are experiencing economic and social mobility for the first time, and are changing their habits, hopes and ways of living. Inventive and productive, they are not staying put.

Others, newly aware of the opportunities that await, are moving to cities in what the UN Population Fund describes as history’s largest wave of urbanization. Over a million a week. In all, five billion people will be living in towns and cities by 2030. They include restless young men in search of jobs — and of meaning.

Others still are forced to flee scarcity, persecution, natural disaster, violent conflict or state failure. The resulting mass migrations comprise nearly 60 million refugees and internally displaced people world-wide, an historic high. Long after the immediate crisis, they will need opportunity not only to survive but to thrive — and to contribute to community.

Like the rapid diffusion of technology, information and ideas, the accelerated movement of people is neither a fleeting nor a passing phase. Rather it is a trend, one which may have predictably dangerous spikes along the way as well as opportunities for improved lives and livelihoods. People on the move are challenging class claims, blurring boundaries, redefining nations and asserting their own individual and cultural identities. They offer evidence that the old order may be unraveling, and another is emerging. This is the new normal.

The 2016 GPF Conference will focus on people on the move and explore strategies to assure that the new normal:

  • Engages them as citizens
  • Motivates them as workers
  • Emboldens them as entrepreneurs
  • Inspires them as leaders

The Conference will explore how labor markets are changing, social orders are evolving and states are transforming. It will consider the ways that technology and networks might fundamentally alter the future of work, citizenship, stewardship and leadership. And it will explore ways to mitigate the inherent dangers in the interregnum.

Join us at the 2016 GPF Conference to explore, understand and build a better new normal.



The following information is subject to change. Additional program updates will be made periodically.


TRACK 1: Seeking Opportunity

 New economic opportunities are compelling millions of people to migrate from rural areas to cities both within their home countries and abroad. This track will examine the search for opportunity, the resulting acceleration of urbanization and ways to meet the jobs challenge in cities and back home.

PLENARY 1: The Jobs Challenge

People in fast growing economies are experiencing social and economic mobility for the first time, joining the middle class. Producers and makers are finding new markets for their commodities or wares, entrepreneurs are better able to access capital and customers, and job seekers are better able to connect with potential employers. Networks and knowledge are not only enabling economic growth and opportunity, but they are changing the very nature of work. Yet the “jobs challenge” remains so long as there is a short supply of the skills required for the jobs that await. What models exist for closing the skills gap? Moreover, how might employers better signal the skills they seek, and job seekers convey the skills they’ve attained, sometimes in non-traditional ways? How might each leverage networks to connect to one another?

PLENARY 2: The Pressures of Urbanization

According to the UN Population Fund, the world is undergoing the largest wave of urbanization in history, estimating that 5 billion people will be living in towns and cities by 2030. This plenary session will showcase strategies for building the necessary hard and soft infrastructure that meets the demands of a growing economy and an increasingly urban middle class. In addition, it will examine the resulting lifestyle changes — from eating habits to energy consumption — and the effect they have on individual health and the environment.

WORKING GROUP 1: Finding Protections in the Gig Economy

The working poor have always lived in the “gig economy” — piecing together various part-time opportunities to eke out a living without the benefit of social protections. Now, many low and middle-income workers, parents and part-time students seek the flexibility that the gig economy provides to add to household income and to put unused time and unused assets to work. How can workers gain the flexibility of the gig economy and obtain the protections that traditional middle-income jobs have provided, such as contributions to health insurance and pensions?

WORKING GROUP 2: Sourcing and Supply Chains

New technologies and changing business practices are transforming the employment landscape and offering new opportunities to those at the bottom and middle of the pyramid. Impact sourcing (or socially responsible outsourcing) — currently employing nearly 561,000 people worldwide — has the potential to increase the efficiency of global markets, while providing important opportunities to disadvantaged men and women. This new approach to sourcing talent could completely transform the world of work. But will it?

WORKING GROUP 3: Building the Infrastructure for Growth and Urbanization

This Working Group will examine innovative strategies for creating the hard and soft infrastructure — from transportation and electricity to legal systems and environmental standards — that allows for economic activity and the integration of and improved quality of life for current and future middle class city dwellers.


TRACK 2: Seeking Safety and Security

 While the creation of migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) is not a new problem, it is an acute one and has quickly become one of the greatest humanitarian, social, economic and political challenges of our time. This track will explore the root causes — from state failure and political violence, to extreme weather and resource scarcity — and the immediate and long-term consequences of displacement for individuals and states.

PLENARY: Meeting the Immediate and Long-term Needs of the Displaced

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in 2014 there were nearly 60 million refugees and IDPs worldwide — the highest number since World War II. What is the social sector’s role in meeting the immediate needs of the most vulnerable while at the same time, creating long-term strategies for ensuring the security and well-being of those forced to flee their homes?

WORKING GROUP 1: Protecting and Providing Safety for the Most Vulnerable

This Working Group will showcase innovative strategies for building institutions and establishing norms that support the most vulnerable among the displaced — including women and children, the elderly and the ill and injured.

WORKING GROUP 2: Education for the Displaced

For children and young adults in refugee camps, education is crucial to develop their potential to join the workforce, as well as ensure their safety and rebuild their values and confidence. This Working Group will showcase educational programs that meet the specific needs of those fleeing a crisis.

WORKING GROUP 3: Thinking Long-term

Millions of refugees are currently living in unsustainable conditions: children are out of school, young adults are unemployed and families are not able to support themselves, further increasing their vulnerability. This session will examine solutions to address the long-term needs of the displaced — from legal rights to workforce training to technological infrastructure.

WORKING GROUP 4: Environmental Migrants and Climate Refugees

A July 2015 report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre stated that from 2008 to 2014, an average of 26.4 million people were displaced each year by natural disasters. What is the role of philanthropy in mitigating the dangers of climate change, thereby limiting the number of environmental migrants and climate refugees?


TRACK 3: Seeking Meaning

 While the search for both safety and opportunity has prompted migration and urbanization, the search for meaning can be a fact of life for even those who stay in place, but remain unanchored, unsure that their values, their culture and their very being belongs. That search for belonging is particularly notable among restless young men, but it is not limited to them. Some find affinity in networks that extend their reach and appear to value their role. Those networks can be benign or malign — the source of inspiration to create and contribute, or the motivation to destroy. Their individual journey can be a global concern. This track will examine issues of individual identity and choice, in addition to social integration, acculturation and cohesion.

PLENARY: The Search for Belonging through Violent Extremist Networks

According to the UN, an estimated 15,000 radicals from more than 80 nations have joined extremist groups. These networks have become increasingly diverse, attracting youth from different religious, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. This session will consider why this is the case; the threat extremist groups pose to individuals, societies and states; and the ways in which civil society organizations, philanthropists, policymakers and business leaders are working together to advance political pluralism and social tolerance and prevent disaffection and radicalization.

WORKING GROUP 1: Breaking the Brand of Extremism

This Working Group will consider how extremist organizations are succeeding in building movements and amplifying their radical messages and note strategies for combating these efforts and “breaking their brand.” For example, participants will examine how digital networks, which extend the reach of terror groups, gangs, Islam-o-phobic or white supremacist groups, can be used to counter extremist ideology and even to predict and prevent violence. The group will consider what is at stake when “free speech” yields to “hate speech” and individual privacy yields to collective security.

WORKING GROUP2: Countering Recruitment Strategies — Detecting Warning Signs and Offering Positive Alternatives

The radicalization of youth, including in Western Europe, North America and Africa, is rising. This Working Group will highlight strategies for countering recruitment by better understanding the needs and desires of vulnerable adolescents, detecting warning signs and offering alternative opportunities to current and potential recruits. For example, participants will examine community-based initiatives that empower parents, caregivers and teachers to evaluate the vulnerability of teens and effectively communicate with them.


TRACK 4: Strategic Philanthropy in the Face of Change

PLENARY: Philanthropy’s Intangible Assets

The roles of all institutions and their leaders are changing in the digital age as a function of the decentralization of decision-making and authority, new expectations of transparency and accountability, the rise of networks and the entry of new actors who are both willing and able to effect broad-based social change. Philanthropists are finding new tools and new partners able to effect positive change. GPF members will explore the dynamic environment in which they and their grantees work and the “intangible assets” each brings to bear in this setting.

WORKING GROUP 1: Accountability in Philanthropy — To Whom and for What?

In an era of hyper-accountability, what role can and should transparency play, not only for purposes of compliance and field-wide learning, but also as a prerequisite to collaboration with new players? Philanthropies eager to scale impact seek to share the knowledge gained. What are the most effective means?

WORKING GROUP 2: Capabilities and Culture

What capabilities and collaborative culture are required within philanthropies, among philanthropists or as part of a partnership so as to be poised for influencing other actors? And what role does diversity play?

WORKING GROUP 3: Philanthropy’s Double Binds

This Working Group will consider the different modalities of doing philanthropic work and the inherent contradictions in the field.