In addition to our direct investments in innovators, The Workers Lab addresses gaps where we identify challenges and potential new solutions that require a jump start and where our team of experts can provide unique value. Our work in this area has included investing in design sprints and timely special projects designed to tackle a range of issues workers face. Our focus is on moving quickly to leverage our understanding of worker challenges, convene our extensive network, and then collaborate to create a solution we can iterate and test with workers.
Examples of our past investments in strategic opportunities include:
Through our efforts to bring together diverse stakeholders to quickly solve a problem, we have adapted Google's Design Sprint methodology, to bring about learning with speed, discipline, and collaboration. At The Workers Lab, we’ve made this experimentation process our own by requiring involvement of workers who inform the solution from start to finish.
Our process helps us:
GIG WORKER LEARNING PROJECT
In 2021, we launched the Gig Worker Learning Project in partnership with the Aspen Institute Future of Work Initiative to clarify what we know about gig work and workers, directly from gig workers themselves. Before jumping into new, worker-centered research with gig workers, we thought it prudent to assemble and analyze the current research about gig work to fully understand where there are gaps, consensus, disagreement, and key opportunities to learn more. Since the project launched, we’ve convened dozens of worker leaders and researchers to learn from their experiences, and we’ve analyzed more than 75 recent studies about gig work and workers. In early 2022, we released a report of our initial findings and recommendations.
We’re now building from the findings in this report by undertaking a series of participatory open-listening and direct conversations with gig workers. This qualitative research, will dig deeper into several questions that are not being asked widely of gig workers. These include questions about:
This qualitative research will feed into a large-scale national survey and an ongoing toolkit for organizations and researchers to use - all informed by the dozens of researchers and worker leaders that continue to contribute to this project.
DESIGN SPRINT TO EXPLORE HOW FLEXIBLE WORK CAN BE QUALITY WORK.
All work – whether it is standard employment or gig and contract work – should allow workers flexibility without sacrificing quality. This year, The Workers Lab aims to invest over $1 million to demonstrate how to make this possible. Historically, the need for flexibility has often come at the expense of adequate pay, and access to benefits and protections, which creates a harmful and unnecessary tradeoff that hurts workers, consumers, and our economy. Using our design sprint methodology, we are setting out to expand and test a worker-centered workforce platform that provides opportunities for workers to find quality, flexible work while also meeting the “consumer” demand for flexible workers. We’ve assembled a team of worker-leaders, tech innovators, policy, and government leaders to help us build on an initial pilot of the platform in the City of Long Beach, California that matched workers’ availability and fair rates with families seeking their services, and found promising results. We will utilize an iterative, worker-informed process to take this government-run workforce platform to the next level by (1) broadening the platform infrastructure to reach workers providing a variety of services, and (2) expanding use of the platform across multiple cities.