When we started planning the program for the Shift Forum nearly a year ago, we knew politics would play a critical role. Shift’s core thesis — that we’re in the early stages of renegotiating the contract between business and society — demands that we engage with politics at a local, regional, and national level. I knew we’d want to include policymakers, political journalists, and regulators in the lineup this February.
To help, I turned to long time friend and storied colleague John Heilemann, who had just embarked on a remarkable political journey: Not only was he the co-managing editor of politics at Bloomberg, but he was also shooting a new kind of political documentary series— Showtime’s The Circus — which offered intimate and candid insights into what was quickly becoming one of the most divisive, fascinating, and important election seasons of the modern era (if you’ve not watched The Circus, you must put it on your binge list, it’s beyond great).
But even as we began building out the political and policy pillars of the Shift Forum, neither of us anticipated the outcome of last Fall’s election. Simmering questions of economic and social policy have been brought to a boil — the newly seated Trump administration’s approach to governing is unpredictable, off the cuff, and frankly unsettling for many of us in business and technology circles.
Will the cherished and hard won ideals of the Internet industry — net neutrality, strong encryption, privacy protections — be weakened or repealed? Will Trump’s manic proclamations around immigration and free trade threaten the technology industry’s talent, manufacturing, and distribution pipelines? What happens to our nations’ most important companies when an era of multinational globalism is held hostage to Trump’s rhetoric of protectionist nationalism? And just as our country seems poised to lead on climate change and the shift to a new energy framework, are we headed back to “drill baby, drill”?
In the past few months, Heilemann and I have been hard at work identifying the people best suited to addressing these questions, and bringing them to the stage at Shift Forum. Today we’re pleased to announce a stellar group of intellectuals, policymakers, and politicians who will help us all make sense of it two weeks from today.
The first national political figure to speak will be Janet Napolitano, the former governor of Arizona, Secretary of Homeland Security, and now President of the University of California system. Directly after Napolitano, Heilemann will interview Valerie Jarrett, who for the past eight years served as senior advisor to President Obama, and was widely recognized to be Obama’s closest political confidante.
The next morning opens with a conversation with Brad Smith, President of Microsoft and one of the few technology leaders invited to the now-famous Trump technology summit in New York late last year. Our survey of the political landscape continues with a full morning of politics and policy helmed by Heilemann (we’re calling the program “National Interest with John Heilemann.”) First up will be a candid conversation on technology policy under Trump, with Rachel Whetstone, head of policy at Uber, and several guests to be announced shortly. We’ll then dive into economic policy with Robert Wolf, a long serving senior economic advisor to Obama (Wolf also ran UBS Americas and served on the Economic Recovery Advisory Board from 2009–2011). After Wolf, we’ll delve into the deepening hairball of healthcare policy with Andy Slavitt, the departing head of CMS, which oversees (oversaw?!) the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, and Medicaid. We’ll also hear from Jerry Taylor, founder of the Nisaken Institute, who will tell us how he broke from the Cato Institute over climate policy.
Our final day opens with Robert Reich, the former Secretary of Labor under Clinton, and now a firebrand voice for the reform of capitalism from his seat as Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley. Then prepare for some serious storytelling, as we’re thrilled to announce that John Podesta, Chair of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and former Chief of Staff to Bill Clinton, will join us for a candid conversation about “The Hacked Election.” Joining Podesta for a portion of his time with us will be Shawn Henry, a retired senior FBI official who serves as President of Crowdstrike Services, the security firm which first identified Russia as the source of last year’s historic election hacking. Also joining is Marc Elias, the chair of Perkins Coie’s political law practice — and general counsel to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
We continue our exploration of policy and business in a conversation with Nathan Blecharczyk, co-founder of Airbnb, which remains at the forefront of major policy disputes with governments around the world. We’ll tackle education policy with Max Ventilla, the founder of AltSchool, and the discuss the impact of artificial intelligence on business and policy with a panel moderated by Azeem Azhar featuring CMU’s Vivek Wadhwa, Bloomberg Beta’s Shivon Zilis, and IBM’s Francesca Rossi. Afterwards, Fred Wilson, founder of Union Square Ventures, will continue our exploration of the impact of policy on the workforce with WorkMarket’s Stephen Dewitt, Maya Rockeymoore of Global Policy Solutions, and celebrated manufacturer John Bassett III.
And because nothing drives home the impact and gravity of policy like meeting the people most affected, we’re proud to feature a panel of workers on the front lines of our new economy — people deep in the transition to a new way of work — in retail, transportation, and the new on demand economy.
We’ll close the Shift Forum with a special conversation on the power and responsibilities of cities, featuring Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland, and Mayor William Peduto of Pittsburgh.
If you’re as eager to join this conversation as we are to convene it, please join us at the Shift Forum this February 6–8th in San Francisco. We’ve got a very limited number of seats left, and we expect it to sell out shortly. Because the event is held under Chatham House Rule, you’ll have be present to learn from these extraordinary leaders. Non profit and founder discounts are available. We hope to see you there!