Bellagio/PopTech Fellows


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 2013 Fellows

The Bellagio/PopTech Fellows Class of 2013 includes key innovators in the fields of data and computer science, the arts, and the humanitarian and ecological spheres. The Fellows are carrying forward their explorations of the program’s 2013 theme: how big data and related technology can be used to enhance psychological, social and systemic resilience worldwide.

The 2013 Fellows also benefited from visits by several “catalysts” who helped further spur their thinking.


kate crawford

Kate Crawford is a principal researcher at Microsoft Research and a visiting professor at the MIT Center for Civic Media where she researches the social, political and cultural practices that surround and inform media technologies and data.

gustavo faleiros

Gustavo Faleiros is an environmental journalist and media trainer whose projects have focused on the Amazon and produced a network of journalists spanning nine countries and almost 200 stories, many using data-journalism concepts.

amy luers

Amy Luers is the director of climate change at the Skoll Global Threats Fund where she works at the intersection of information technology, science and climate risk management.

patrick meier

Patrick Meier is director of social innovation at the Qatar Foundation’s Computing Research Institute (QCRI), where he develops next-generation humanitarian technologies by leveraging big data analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and social computing.

Claudia Perlich

Claudia Perlich is chief scientist at Media6Degrees, where she focuses on large-scale data analytics and predictive modeling for complex real-world domains and applications."

Jer Thorp

Jer Thorp is an artist and educator whose digital, software-based art practice explores the boundaries between science and art, bringing new life to data visualization and understanding.


Sean Gourley is a San Francisco-based researcher splitting his time between mathematical research and his venture-backed startup Quid.

Imogen Heap is a British eclectic, eccentric and innovative musician whose talents span from the craft of songwriting to elaborate live multi-instrumental improvisations and experiments in collaborative creation of music. Her work builds on a unique voice, classical training and unusual tech-savviness.

Carlo Ratti is an Italian architect and engineer who practices in Torino, Italy, and teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he directs the MIT SENSEable City Lab, a research group that explores how new technologies are changing the way we understand, design and ultimately live in cities. 

Juliana Rotich is co-founder and executive director of Ushahidi, a non-profit tech company born in Africa, which specializes in developing free and open source software for information collection, interactive mapping and data curation.

In addition, the program will make use of two skilled co-facilitators:

David Kuehler helps organizations build high-performing cultures of innovation and is the founder of the clay street project, an award-winning innovation program at Procter & Gamble.

Robert Garris is the managing director of Bellagio programs and a member of the senior leadership team at the Rockefeller Foundation. He also leads the Foundation’s global and U.S work in the philanthropic sector.

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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