Far too many workers in the United States are vulnerable to falling into poverty. Their incomes don’t allow them to meet basic needs, their hours are long and unpredictable, and they have no real ability to save for an emergency, let alone their futures.
Nearly two-thirds of American workers do not have $1,000 saved. What’s worse, nearly half could not easily afford $400 to pay for unexpected expenses.
Existing solutions to meet workers’ day-to-day financial needs are insufficient, often predatory and, ultimately, stressful to entire communities. Workers are in urgent need of safety net for times of financial stress.
That’s why we are tackling this issue head-on with a Design Sprint for Social Change. We’re partnering with thought leaders across the fields of financial inclusion, product innovation, and labor and employment policy to design and test a new product that will deliver up to $1,000 to workers when they need it for unexpected expenses - no strings attached.
In the end, we hope to gather evidence about how a cash benefit like this one could and would work best -- for workers, employers, technology platforms and government. As this process continues to unfold, we’ll be sharing out key learnings and challenges. Stay tuned!
With support from The Rockefeller Foundation and Google.org, we adapted Google's Design Sprint methodology -- an intensive, time-bound approach to solve problems that reduces risk when bringing a new product to market -- in order to:
Commonwealth is responsible for designing and executing the Workers Strength Fund Pilot and Pilot Evaluation.
Commonwealth strengthens the financial opportunity and security of financially vulnerable people by discovering ideas, piloting solutions, and driving innovations to scale. For nearly two decades, Commonwealth has designed effective innovations, products, and policies enabling over a half a million people to accumulate more than $2 billion in savings. We collaborate with consumers, the financial services industry, employers, policy-makers and mission-driven organizations. The solutions we build are grounded in real life, based on our deep understanding of people who are financially vulnerable and how businesses can best serve them.
Lead Product Advisor
Rachel Schneider is a highly sought-after expert on consumer finance and economic issues and co-author of The Financial Diaries: How American Families Cope in a World of Uncertainty, which tracked 235 low- and moderate-income households over the course of a year to collect detailed data on how families manage their finances.
Lead Policy & Research Advisor
David Weil, Ph.D. is an internationally recognized expert in employment and labor market policy. He is currently the Dean of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. Previously, Dr. Weil co-founded and co-directed the Transparency Policy Project at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and served as the Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division at the United States Department of Labor under President Obama. He is also the author of more than 100 articles and five books, including most recently, The Fissured Workplace: Why Work Became So Bad for So Many and What Can Be Done to Improve It, which examines how practices like outsourcing change business organizations and erode relationships between employers and their workers.
Led by our partner, Commonwealth, we have to date:
1. Conducted multiple rounds of rapid prototyping to better understand the viability of the cash benefit; and
2. Executed a Pre-Pilot test of the cash benefit with 29 users to refine the marketing and technology of the website from which the cash benefit can be accessed. To read the full report of pre-pilot findings click here
We are launching a full-scale pilot with hundreds of workers in Summer 2019. Stay tuned for updates!
May 23, 2019: How Rainy-Day Funds Could Become a Mainstream Workplace Benefit (Brandeis University, The Heller School for Social Policy & Management)
February 8, 2019: Marriott workers’ lawsuit says inconsistent schedules and credit union loans are a predatory mix (Philly Inquirer)
January 9, 2019: A year of lessons learned from Google.org (Google.org)
November 19, 2018: Automation and the Future of Work (American Enough Podcast)
October 8, 2018: Instant Deposits For the Postmates Fleet (Postmates)
October 3, 2018: Databite No. 115: Redefining Benefits for Future Workers (Data & Society)
August 23, 2018: Gig economy workers need benefits. These companies are popping up to help (CNN Money)
August 6, 2018: Workplace Benefits to Benefits for Working (Medium)
July 31, 2018: Two Policy Ideas For Financial Inclusion In A Modern Economy (Forbes)
July 30, 2018: Addressing the $1,000 Problem: Experimentation to Evolve our Social Safety Net (Rockefeller Foundation)
June 2018: Beyond Robots and Universal Income: Experiments from Silicon Valley for Tackling Inequality (2018 Aspen Ideas Festival)
Feb 7, 2018: Addressing the $1,000 Problem: A Necessity for the Workers Who Are Shaping our Future (Rockefeller Foundation)