The Innovation Fund

Your Idea. Our Investment.

PUT YOUR IDEAS TO WORK FOR WORKERS

It's a new year - and that means a new opportunity to apply to The Innovation Fund. Subscribe now to receive an email when we issue the next call for applications.

The Innovation Fund is The Workers Lab's signature program. We invest in leaders who are ready to move their ideas forward, to learn, and share their learnings so that others can build on them.

The Innovation Fund invests social impact grants of up to $150,000 for winning ideas that help build worker power. Recipients also receive 12 months of mentorship and support to bring their ideas centered around workers to fruition. Anyone can apply.

Each grant cycle calls for ideas that increase worker power. During our Fall 2020 grant cycle, for example, we sought submissions from social entrepreneurs with innovative ideas to:

  • Rebuild businesses by Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC)
  • Stimulate quality jobs and shared prosperity, especially in rural communities
  • Rethink or expand the social contract with workers, including public benefits, and more

At The Workers Lab, our purpose is to give new ideas that increase worker power a chance to succeed and flourish, and new ideas for workers need a chance now, perhaps more than ever before. If you, or someone you know, have a worker-centered idea, please subscribe to our mailing list and make a plan to apply.

Send Me Alerts From The Innovation Fund

Fall 2020 Winners

Congratulations to our most recent innovators!

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Carina

Even before the pandemic, the child care industry was in dire need of increased accessibility, accountability, and stability. As COVID-19 continues, this need has become critical as family child care providers (FCCPs), run predominantly by women of color, face closures to their businesses while parents, especially those of low-income families of color, struggle to find care and stay working. Carina is scaling a secure, scalable, accessible, and accountable child care matching platform in English and Spanish. This service will connect families in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Washington with real-time openings at unionized family FCCPs.

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Driver’s Seat Cooperative

Gig workers generate troves of valuable data that could be used for their individual and collective benefit - if only they could see and use their data the way gig platform owners do. Because of COVID-19, the nature of gig work is shifting rapidly and unemployed low-wage workers are increasingly turning to gig work for survival. Driver's Seat Cooperative is piloting a mobile app, starting in Oregon and Wisconsin, that puts the power of data in the hands of gig workers so they can drive decisions that are best for them, while also helping cities and businesses shape the gig economy with transportation, land use, and workforce analytics based on their unique driver-generated datasets.

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Warehouse Worker Resource Center

Logistics work has never had a bigger moment than amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As the warehouse industry grows more critical, the Warehouse Worker Resource Center (WWRC) in San Bernardino, wants to see the workers benefit from their increased importance. In California, where climate change legislation is creating new zero-emissions logistics standards, WWRC sees an opportunity to re-center workers in the "future of work" conversations. Their winning pre-pilot idea is to train displaced workers to take new, quality careers in green logistics.

CATALYTIC FUNDING FOR WORKER-INSPIRED SOLUTIONS

OUR FALL CALL HAS ENDED, STAY TUNED TO HEAR ABOUT OUR SPRING 2021 INNOVATION CALL.


WINNERS

Winners Announced | February 2021

OPEN CALL

  • This project addresses a critical problem facing workers today.
  • This project proposes a new or innovative solution that directly addresses the outlined problem.
  • This project has a clear approach to supporting and uplifting workers
  • This project outlines clear S.M.A.R.T. goals.
  • This team has demonstrated in-depth thinking about the possibilities for sustainability and scale.
  • This project has clarity for the use of funds.
  • This team has the skills and experience needed to successfully execute their project. 
  • This team understands potential gaps or barriers for accomplishing their project.

SEMI-FINALS

  • This team has thoughtfully considered how to maximize The Innovation Fund dollars and is actively or creatively raising new funding sources to advance their project.
  • This project has a strong process for continuous learning and generating real-time insights.
  • This team can convey a clear and compelling pitch by video. We're looking for compelling content, not video quality.

FINALS

  • Showcase live pitch.
  • Q&A with TWL Board of Directors.

ELIGIBILITY & APPLICATION

 

What types of organizations or entities can apply?

  • Independent organizations or fiscally sponsored projects
  • Non-profits
  • For-profit and/or social enterprises
  • Public sector and worker-led entities

Can past applicants apply?
Yes, we encourage past applicants to apply unless they received an award in the most recent cycle.

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 non-profit, for-profit, etc.) by the end of the grant term?
No. That said, we are especially interested in projects that have thoughtfully considered a potential pathway to scale and/or sustainability.

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, will I/we receive $150,000 all at once?
Yes. 

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

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 resources and 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 reports. When possible, we will also bring together winners at least twice over 12 months for tailored cohort convenings, workshop challenges, to share resources, as well as connect with peers and advisors.

GENERAL QUESTIONS

How often does The Workers Lab run The Innovation Fund?
Three times a 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