A multitude of new trends, new ideas and forces of change are reshaping possibilities for livelihoods, creating the opportunity—and urgent need—for a new conversation.

Around the world, lower- and middle-income societies are contending with a series of unbuffered and accelerating challenges. While there is no one single narrative, there are many interconnected themes, including:


  • Demographic shifts, including a shift from rural to urban population centers, changing family structure, evolving roles for women, the greying of society and/or a youth bulge.
  • Environmental stressors and climate changes which make some traditional livelihoods, like agriculture, less predictable.
  • Unrestrained financial capital flows, which surge around the globe, connecting societies to global markets while exposing them to global competition.
  • Emerging technological change, which connects individuals, enterprises and stakeholders to opportunities around the world, even as automation and new manufacturing tools eliminate some jobs and create others.
  • Changing economic growth patterns and labor markets, which shift opportunities across and within countries and communities.

These forces—and many others—shape the possibilities and strategies for creating and sustaining livelihoods in a society. They are mirrored by a set of questions, tensions and dilemmas within the livelihoods frame:

  • Can the positive and negative disruptive impacts of technology be amplified, channeled, managed and/or softened as needed?
  • Does the developmental paradigm, which puts an emphasis on societies' transition to consumer-driven market economies, need to be rethought in an era of environmental stresses and resource constraints?
  • What's the goal of a livelihoods strategy? Full employment? Poverty alleviation? Entrepreneurship? Innovation? Growth? Stability? Social coherence? Economic inclusion?
  • What should be the locus of effort? The formal sector? The informal sector?

At the 2014 Bellagio/PopTech Fellows program, we'll take an "outside-in" look at the externalities and forces that are reshaping the livelihoods discussion and an "inside-out" look at exemplars of livelihoods success. Then, we'll work to articulate and refine complementary principles that can inform and drive future efforts to improve livelihoods.

Please submit any questions via email.

Meet the 2014 Fellows

The Rockefeller Foundation and PopTech are pleased to announce the Bellagio/PopTech Fellows Class of 2014, a diverse group of designers, social innovators, technologists, and writers with expertise in technology, global health, poverty alleviation, environmental sustainability, and informal sector economics. The Fellows will collaboratively work to define the notion of livelihood in the 21st century with the goal to initiate a conversation designed to inform and inspire global, national and local efforts to improve livelihoods.

The 2014 Fellows also benefited from visits by several "catalysts" who helped further spur their thinking.


Sean Blagsvedt

Sean Blagsvedt is the CEO of, which connects employers to informal sector employees in emerging markets through a combination of mobile phones, location, skill and price filtering, and social connections.

Dominic Muren

Dominic Muren operates at the crossroads of robotics, architecture, and product design, turning his passion for sustainability into his own design lab, the Humblefactory, and the design-sharing platform Alchematter.

Robtel Neajai Pailey

Robtel Neajai Pailey is a Liberian writer and independent researcher, currently pursuing her doctorate in development studies at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) as a Mo Ibrahim Foundation Ph.D. Scholar.

Solomon Prakash

Solomon Prakash is the Founder of the India Drivers Network (mGaadi), a social enterprise that is building a network of commercial drivers in India and offers various services to the driver community through location-based technologies.

Alexice Tô-Camier

Alexice Tô-Camier is the Country Representative for Trickle Up in Burkina Faso, managing Trickle Up's program focused on building the capacity of people living in extreme poverty to develop and sustain a livelihood that improves their quality of life.


Ken Banks

Ken Banks is the founder of and FrontlineSMS, devoting himself to the application of mobile technology for positive social and environmental change in the developing world.

Grant Tudor

Grant Tudor is a senior strategist at Ogilvy & Mather, and the founder and CEO of Populist, a nonprofit group that brings marketing's creative problem solving to bear on social innovation challenges.

Ravi Venkatesan

Ravi Venkatesan is the former Chairman of Microsoft India and currently serves as the Founder and Chairman of Social Venture Partners India, a network of engaged philanthropists addressing social problems through venture philanthropy. He is also a Rockefeller Foundation board member.

Pauline Mujawamariya

Pauline Mujawamariya is the Director of the Innovation Prize for Africa at the African Innovation Foundation, where she also directs the innovation and technology program.

Prabhjot Singh

Prabhjot Singh is the Director of Systems Design at the Earth Institute and Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, and the co-chair of the One Million Community Health Workers Campaign, an initiative of the African Union and UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

Steven Livingston

Steven Livingston is Professor of Media and Public Affairs and International Affairs at The George Washington University, and author of Bits and Atoms: Information and Communication Technology in Areas of Limited Statehood, among other published works.


See the results of the 2013 program on resilience and big data

See the results of the 2013 program on resilience and big data

The 2013 Fellows
2013 Bellagio/PopTech Fellows

The Promise and Challenge of Big Data

See the results of the 2013 program on resilience and big data.


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