01/28/2014 03:06 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Pioneers of the Next Silicon Valley


"Everybody is envious of Silicon Valley. They would like to have something like it themselves." These were the opening comments of the Financial Times' John Gapper moderating a panel at Davos this month. They represent a sentiment that is widely held in the leadership of our cities and nations around the world.

Silicon Valley has become, like Detroit before it, the symbol of innovation and prosperity. It is hard to argue looking at the results of the last few decades but there history tells us that in 25 years Silicon Valley is more likely to look like the Detroit of the 1980's than the powerhouse it is today. And, we are likely to see another region emerge as the capital of innovation and prosperity.

The Bay Area pioneers of the Information Economy, from David Packard to John Chambers, helped to catalyze the changes in our society necessary to make information the organizing principle of the economy. Today, a new set of disruptive innovators, policy-setters, taste-makers and researchers who are boldly enabling commercial applications to scale and adapt markets to quench our need for purpose in our lives. Together, they are transforming our innate need for purpose into the organizing principle for innovation and growth in the American economy.

If we follow these early innovators we are likely to get clues about where and how the next Silicon Valley will emerge. The emerging evidence is that the fourth economic era in our history will be one not organized around agriculture, industry or information like the ones before it but around purpose.

The emergence of purpose as the new organizing principle in the economy is a product of our current moment in time. It is based on where we stand in history today: our current culture, values, education, technological abilities, social organizations, political realities, and the state of our natural environment. Each part of our world has gone through a radical transformation in the last few decades, and they are now converging into a new set of processes to change the way our society operates.

The changes are happening in many ways through little things in our everyday lives, such as the food we're eating and where we're shopping. They are happening in how we live and how we work and they are empowering people to have rich and fulfilling careers by creating meaningful value for themselves and others.

The pioneers of the this new economy spans every sector of the U.S., from the newest startups, corporations and academia to government and nonprofits. Last fall we reached out to leaders across the country to identify 100 individuals creating new models, ideas and inventions to drive purpose in the economy. This list, Purpose Economy 100, was an effort to research and exemplify the bold efforts to evolve our economy into one that generate purpose for people as employees, customers, community-members and citizens. The patterns that emerged were uncanny: from startup co-working spaces to corporate board rooms, the to the library stacks of universities, we were witness to 100 new models and inventions that embraced a deeper method of operating, seeing economic opportunity from doing so.

As we study not only the pioneers of this list but also the sources of nominations, we gain key insights into where the next innovation region will emerge. Regions with top research universities and healthcare innovation infrastructure appear to be the top contenders but we are still in the early days and just about every region has a case to make that they can be the next Silicon Valley.

Hopefully at Davos next year our focus can not be on envying Silicon Valley but discussing how to inspire the capital of the next economic era -- one that is focused on serving people and the planet.