The Innovation Fund

Your Idea. Our Investment.

The Workers Lab is always searching for innovators with new ideas about how to transform systems and structures to make all workers safe, healthy, and secure.

Check out this video profiling the 2021 Innovation Fund winners!

Our purpose at The Workers Lab is to give new ideas for workers a chance to succeed and flourish. Through the Innovation Fund, we invest in new ideas that others are working on. Since 2014, the Innovation Fund has invested over $5 million in 78 innovators. This cycle, we're reviewing applications from innovators with new ideas about how to transform systems and structures to make all workers safe, healthy, secure, and free. We will award grants of up to $150,000. In addition to receiving funding to give their new idea a chance to succeed, awardees will receive mentorship, training, and organizational support where The Workers Lab can add value. Recipients will be announced later this fall. Nearly every type of organization or entity is eligible to apply - from nonprofits and for-profits to public sector entities and co-ops. 

As champions of new ideas for workers, The Workers Lab understands that bringing creative, transformative ideas to fruition requires investment. In other fields, financial resources might come from private equity or venture capital. Those investments aren’t typically available for ideas that are designed to solve problems facing workers. The Workers Lab is changing that. The innovations we invest in address immediate and structural problems that exist because our systems and structures are outdated and weren’t created with all workers in mind.

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Recent Innovation Fund Winners

Congratulations to our most recent innovators!

Los Deliveristas Unidos

Los Deliveristas Unidos

is a rapidly expanding collective of app-based food delivery workers in New York that grew out of the organizing efforts of Worker's Justice Project. WJP and LDU are organizing for better working conditions, livable wages, healthy and safe work environments, and pay transparency, while building pathways for worker representation in the app-based delivery industry. Today’s app- and gig-based economy requires new legal, regulatory, policy, and organizing frameworks, and LDU is empowering workers to lead these conversations. In fact, LDU is writing the new rules themselves, fighting to achieve justice on their own terms. Since organizing a march of 3,000 deliveristas in April 2021 from Times Square to Foley Square, LDU has partnered with New York City councilmembers to introduce six bills that improve working conditions and pay equity for deliveristas setting a national example. LDU’s focus is to help these workers gain protections and rights that bring their work within the laws and norms of regular employment.

WorkIt Platform

United for Respect Education Fund's WorkIt Platform

is a multiracial national nonprofit organization fighting for big and bold policy change that improves the lives of people who work in retail. The group is working to catalyze leadership development through technology. The new set of technology tools will help organizers listen and learn from their members, activate users into worker leaders, and spotlight opportunities for deeper engagement. The technology will surface insights about community members - who is engaging, how they are engaging, who they are engaging with, what actions have they taken, and what additional leadership activities they might want. These user insight tools will allow organizers to connect with users much more effectively, efficiently, and with far less manual oversight and management.

Let_s Get Set

Let's Get Set

guides working mothers on paths to financial security and wealth creation with mobile tools tailored to meet their unique financial needs. By building a company that centers the needs of this underserved demographic, Let’s Get Set aims to shift power to them and put pressure on the financial system to better serve working mothers making less than $40,000. The app helps working moms secure and deploy the $8,500 in federal tax credits they are at risk of missing this year through end-to-end tax-time support, including matching with free tax preparation. The app also helps workers identify savings goals, matches them to a savings partner where they can open a fee-free account, and use their tax credits to start saving. Let’s Get Set’s vision is to build a financial platform that offers tailored resources, products, and support for households making less than $40,000 to guide them on pathways to financial stability.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR APPLICANTS

2021 INNOVATION FUND APPLICATIONS WERE ACCEPTED JUNE 1 - JULY 12


Round One Application Portal Closed | July 12, 2021

Semi-Finals | August 23 - September 20, 2021

Finals | October 15 - November 12, 2021

Winners Announced | By December 7, 2021

ROUND ONE

  • The project addresses a critical problem facing workers today.
  • The project proposes a new or innovative solution about how to transform systems or structures to make all workers safe, healthy, secure, or free.
  • The team has a clear approach to including workers in the design and development of the project.
  • The team has demonstrated in-depth thinking about the long-term possibilities for the project.

SEMI-FINALS

  • The team understands potential gaps or barriers for accomplishing their project.
  • The project outlines clear S.M.A.R.T. goals.
  • The team has thoughtfully considered how to maximize the Innovation Fund dollars and is actively or creatively raising new funding sources to advance their project.
  • The project has a strong process for continuous learning and generating real-time insights.
  • The team can convey a clear and compelling pitch by video. We're looking for compelling content, not video quality.

FINALS

  • The team participates in preparation sessions with The Workers Lab team.
  • The team participates in The Workers Lab's live showcase and provides a pitch to relevant stakeholders and TWL staff.
  • The team participates in a Q&A session with The Workers Lab Board of Directors.

ELIGIBILITY & APPLICATION

What types of organizations or entities can apply?
Nearly any type of organization or entity is eligible to apply, including:

  • Non-profit organizations
  • Public sector entities
  • Co-operatives or other worker-led entities
  • For-profit companies
  • Social enterprises
  • Projects that have established a relationship with a fiscal sponsor but are not independent organizations themselves

Can past applicants apply?
Yes, we encourage past applicants to apply unless they have already received an award for the project from The Workers Lab, or were a winner in the most recent cycle of the Innovation Fund.

Are there any geographic restrictions? 
Yes, awards from the Innovation Fund are limited to organizations that have a United States Tax ID.

Are there any industry/sector restrictions?
No.

Are there any restrictions on the staff or budget size of a project or organization?
No. 

Can I/we apply with more than one project? 
Yes, but please note we will only select one project per organization.

REVIEW PROCESS

How will I/we be evaluated?
On the “Selection Criteria” tab, you will find more information about the criteria and questions we use to evaluate applicants in each round. Applicants will receive an average score based on reviewer responses and reviewers will decide on semi-finalists and finalists primarily based on top scores.

Is there an expectation that the project is self-sustaining or that it becomes incorporated (as a nonprofit, for-profit, etc.) by the end of the grant term?
No. That said, we are especially interested in projects that have thoughtfully considered long-term possibilities for the project.

Who are the reviewers?
Reviewers in each round will include a mix of The Workers Lab staff and Board of Directors, subject matter experts, funding partners, worker-leaders, and previous winners of the Innovation Fund.

WINNERS

If selected as a winner, what can I/we use the funds for? Are there any restrictions?
Grant dollars are generally flexible, as long as they are used in support of the proposed project. Winners will be required to provide interim and final financial reports (in addition to other reporting requirements for learning) as part of our reporting process. The Workers Lab allows indirect cost rates of up to 15% for any grant recipients.

Outside of the cash prize, what can winners expect from The Workers Lab?
At The Workers Lab, we are committed to evaluating progress, learning from successes and challenges, and ensuring that we are regularly leveraging our network to amplify the work of our amazing partners while minimizing administrative burden. With that in mind, winners are expected to participate in quarterly check-in calls and provide interim and final financial reports. The Workers Lab provides mentorship, training, and other forms of organizational support where we can add value. 

GENERAL QUESTIONS

How often does The Workers Lab run the Innovation Fund?
In 2021, we are running one cycle of the Innovation Fund. In the past, we have run up to three cycles in one year.

Who can I contact if I have any questions or need more information?
You can contact innovationfund@theworkerslab.com if you have additional questions.

THE INNOVATION FUND UPDATES