The Economic Inclusion and Competitiveness Imperative

The Economic Inclusion and Competitiveness Imperative

By Johnathan M. HolifieldCo-founder, ScaleUp Partners //

During the last century, America’s position as a global economic leader was unaffected by the lack of contribution of disconnected Americans in key performance areas. We were the largely unchallenged global leaders, and U.S. economic competitiveness was assured despite less than optimal productivity from more than half our population. This is no longer the case. With unyielding global competition for jobs and opportunity, our nation cannot continue maintaining the walls that separate too many Americans from opportunities to successfully compete and prosper. Without an economy open to more contributions from more Americans (especially from disconnected populations; generally, women, African Americans, Latinos, and rural populations) we accept spectacular success for a few at the expense of a resilient, globally competitive national economy.

The Inclusive Competitiveness® Solution

America cannot reach its highest economic competitiveness goals without improved productivity of those disconnected from today’s economy – the Innovation Economy. Including disconnected Americans in our nation’s best opportunities is no longer a mere talking point or sound bite. It is absolutely imperative if our nation is to retain its seat at the head of the global economic table. Inclusive Competitiveness is a comprehensive response to this seminal challenge. It is an interdisciplinary framework of policies, strategies, practices, and metrics that creates community systems to improve the productivity and quality of life of disconnected Americans in the Innovation Economy.

The Inclusive Competitiveness Framework
The Inclusive Competitiveness Framework

The Inclusive Competitiveness Framework

The Inclusive Competitiveness Framework (IC Framework) is needed to achieve the ends of sustaining and improving U.S. economic competitiveness. If we want disconnected Americans to win a fair share of top employment opportunities and form job creating business, then new community systems must be created to develop new, interdisciplinary capacities that produce more economically competitive capabilities within their communities.

A brief description of the framework:

Enabling Policy

Public and private sector policy – defined as influential actors’ expression of important public objectives – is the enabling force of Inclusive Competitiveness. It creates the requisite conditions to enable economic inclusion and competitiveness processes, strategies, practices and metrics.

Strategy Elements

  • Instill New Community Economic Narrative: Evolve economic culture, leadership and advocacy in disconnected communities to emphasize economic inclusion and competitiveness.
  • Support New Education Leadership: Improved STEM / STEAM education attainment will contribute to greater access to entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystems, and ultimately to the Innovation Economy.
  • Promote New Organizational Leadership: New organizational leadership is required to complement (not replace) and build upon incumbent services with new capacities and capabilities that are aligned with local and U.S. economic competitiveness levers and opportunities.
  • Conduct New Regional Economic Competitiveness Exploration, Selection and Prioritization: An appropriate emphasis on Inclusive Competitiveness is needed in the early stages of every local economic competitiveness exploration and selection of areas of focus.
  • Adopt New Policies, Processes and Practices: Creative, risk-astute policy, process and practice advancements across a diverse set of stakeholders are required to activate and sustain Inclusive Competitiveness.

Desired Outcomes: Economic Athletes

The primary goal of Inclusive Competitiveness is to create new, high-performing economic athletes, with the skills mastery, creativity, agility, resilience and stamina to win in today’s economy. These competitors can be our new stars – those who react to, and perform in, our volatile global economy in the same ways that successful sports athletes react to and overcome the unpredictability of their respective games. They can fill the dual pipelines of performance and productivity and become the intrapreneurs (employees infused with the principles and ethic of entrepreneurship) and job-creating entrepreneurs our nation needs.


Inclusive Competitiveness and the IC Framework follow and build on—and do not replace—existing regional, state and national metrics, with an exclusive focus on measuring the productivity of disconnected populations. To date, very few, if any, competitiveness plans measure either the inputs or output of disconnected Americans within these economic public objectives. That’s where the IC Framework comes in, aligning with existing economic competitiveness goals and measuring the productivity of disconnected Americans and their communities within them.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” In the same way, I believe that the arc of national economic competitiveness is long, but it bends toward Inclusive Competitiveness.

Johnathan M. Holifield is Architect of Inclusive Competitiveness®, Co-founder of ScaleUp Partners LLC, civil rights lawyer and former NFL player. Learn more about his upcoming book here: The Future Economy and Inclusive Competitiveness®: How Demographic Trends and Innovation Are Changing the U.S. and Our Unique Opportunity for Shared Prosperity

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