The Spring 2020 cycle of The Innovation Fund has closed! From all around the world and all around the U.S., we heard from 378 non-profits, social justice groups, entrepreneurs, and labor unions with exciting ideas to impact workers.
We're excited to share, below, a few of our early observations about this cohort of Innovators, including trends and ideas that stand out.
Funding Call For Ideas Around Worker Supports
For the Spring 2020 cycle, even before COVID-19, we had called for ideas to increase worker stability. We recognize that workers are often destabilized by circumstances related to their employment, including:
- Unpredictable scheduling
- Unreliable transportation
- Stressful or dangerous worksites
- Limited, if any, health care or retirement benefits
That instability, in turn, makes aspirational goals unrealistic. How can workers save for a home or a child's college fund? How can they pursue a creative or artistic avocation? How can they take up leadership roles in their communities?
The COVID-19 global emergency underscored the need to innovate for worker stability. "Essential workers" are in harms' way, many without adequate protection or safety protocols. Most are unable to choose to stay home. Those workers deemed "inessential" have lost their jobs. More than 22 million U.S. workers are now unemployed, and almost 10 million are now without health insurance.
Ideas Received Are Poised For Social Impact
Fortunately, Innovators from 43 states and eight countries outside the U.S. answered our call amidst this global crisis.
Innovators are piloting and scaling projects that focus on:
- Worker ownership
- Digital platforms for training and professional development
- Developing technology to communicate with hard-to-reach workers and connect them to jobs and opportunity
- Accessible legal protection for workers navigating unsafe or exploitative conditions
- Emergency help
- Much more
Collectively, the projects touch a broad cross-section of workers, including those displaced by the current crisis and those who are more vulnerable now because of it. It is so exciting to see ideas that support a spectrum of workers across industry, geography, age, involvement with the justice system, and ability.
Next Steps For The Innovation Fund Spring 2020 cycle
And now comes the hardest part for us at The Workers Lab: Selecting the winners.
Throughout May, we'll be working to identify Finalists. We will announce Finalists on May 28.
In early June, we'll hold our Finalist Showcase - this year, the format will be virtual due to COVID-19.
Finally, we'll announce winners by the end of June. For all the specific dates, see the Timeline tab on The Innovation Fund page.
This cycle’s competition is fierce. There are more great ideas than we’ll be able to select. For now, thank you to everyone who submitted an application and who shared the opportunity with an Innovator. We can’t wait to tell you the Finalists’ ideas next month.
Spring 2020 was the first grant cycle of this year for The Innovation Fund. There will be more to come. Follow the link below to sign up for an email notification about the next cycle. You can also follow us on social media for regular updates: