Future of Work Roundtable: Using Cities to Pilot New Initiatives for Independent Workers

n the United States and around the world, public policy is increasingly outdated for today’s workplace realities. The rise in independent workers, the dramatic expansion of new technologies, and the fraying social safety net pose significant challenges for workers, companies and policymakers alike. Public sector leaders at the national and state level are just starting to understand the scale of the challenges they face and think about portable benefits plans and reimagining worker classifications, let alone major policy shifts like universal basic income. In the face of a federal government often paralyzed by partisanship and gridlock, it’s time to start focusing on policy innovation at the local level, especially in cities.

Given the seemingly endless list of problems that need fixing, where should an innovative mayor start? This roundtable focused on identifying some of the best ideas emerging that could be applied in pilot projects at the city level right now. We also will look at promising areas where innovative policies could be developed and tried out relatively quickly. What could be done at the local level to provide support for independent workers in need of a more robust social safety net? Can we help individuals working on their own to more easily interface with government, take advantage of resources, and find opportunities? What private sector solutions developed by innovative companies could be encouraged or accelerated by cities? During this roundtable, we began to answer these questions, and inspire those who run cities to step up and take the lead on creating a better environment for independent workers—not someday, but now.