5 questions with New America’s Molly G. Martin

Molly G. Martin is the director of New America Indianapolis — a National Network hub launched in 2017 to focus on the innovative grassroots solutions Hoosiers are developing to make the Circle City more livable, resilient, and equitable. Prior to joining New America, Martin spent ten years at Lumina Foundation and previously worked in higher education student affairs.

What should people know about Indianapolis that they aren’t likely to know already?

It’s far more innovative than it’s given credit for. In fact, you likely benefit from Indiana talent, creativity and innovation every day: rearview mirror, voicemail, Prozac, singing ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ during the seventh inning stretch. Indianapolis’ own Kurt Vonnegut wrote, “I don’t know what it is about Hoosiers, but wherever you go there is always a Hoosier doing something very important.” Unfortunately for us, that often means people have moved away from home (as they do in most of the Midwest, a net out-migration region). But local leaders like Indy Chamber, IndyHub, Indiana Black Expo and others are working to make Indy an inclusive talent magnet that brings a high quality of life while, also, addressing poverty abatement and racial equity.

Molly G. Martin

You are working at the leading edge of the future of work. We are starting to pay more attention to the skills kids of today will need to thrive in the future, changes in the manufacturing sector, and more, but what will caregiving look like in a more automated future?

Early childhood educators and caregivers overall are among the most “future-proof” occupations (in that they are at lower risk to have significant number of tasks automated in the near future). Technology and AI will impact how we deliver learning and will allow us to automate rote tasks, but the uniquely human skills involved in caring for people will remain marketable. What I worry about is the infrastructure of care changing and realigning to a new future of work, one that requires different schedules and flexibility from workers. If the practicalities of child- and eldercare options remain as rigid as many are — take, for example, how we still talk about “summer camps” when so many schools start in July — workers with ever-changing schedules won’t have their needs met. Not having affordable, flexible childcare options severely limits workers’ and students’ options for success.

What are you interested in that most people aren’t and should be?

I don’t see enough nuance in conversations about urging our kids to pursue skilled trades “versus” knowledge economy education pathways. One, the paths aren’t mutually exclusive. Two, both paths have honor and market value. Three, someone saying, “education after high school is a huge determinant in someone’s economic mobility” isn’t saying, “everyone should attend a two- or four-year college.” It’s saying we all need training and for that training, you deserve a credential that can carry you to the next opportunity for learning or income.

Looking ahead, what signals or trends do you perceive that make you most hopeful about the future our children will inhabit?

I love the idea that technology and automation of rote tasks could make us more efficient and free people up to explore multiple facets of life and work (as long as that freedom isn’t relegated to people with means). And wouldn’t it be cool if new jobs resulting from automation allowed people with disabilities to participate in workforce roles previously unavailable to them?

What is one book we should read, podcast we should listen to, or piece of art we should encounter to better understand the workplace and the workforce of tomorrow?

I love this question! So many choices. Because the topic of bias doesn’t come up enough in future of work conversations, I’d say Virginia Eubanks’ Automating Inequality. Full disclosure, she was a New America Fellow, but I recommend her work because if we’re going to build public systems to benefit our most vulnerable residents we really need to understand that the people programming the technology are human, and we need to actively engineer against human tendencies towards racism, gender bias, and cultural disconnects.

Follow Molly on Twitter at @mollygmartin and her work at New America here.