My sister is a passionate high school teacher looking for ways to increase her skills and pay so she can help her eldest with college expenses. To her disappointment, none of the certification and continuing ed opportunities for her teaching specialty make sense for her schedule as a working single parent.
Imagine a different kind of worker. A home care attendant that relies on her car to work with several clients a day. One day out of the blue, her car breaks down.
Thousands of working families in this country rely on child care subsidy programs. Imagine getting a promotion at work that raises your wage by $1 or $2/hour, but now you’re not eligible for the subsidy and you still don’t make enough to afford the full cost of care.
Now imagine a husband whose partner has fallen ill and missed a few weeks of work. The family is now facing eviction, but because he’s working so much overtime, he can’t make an appointment with an attorney at a local anti-eviction community organization.
Where can these people go in moments where time is of the essence and yet, time, resources, and information are in limited supply?
Here’s what we know. The current social safety net and network of support for workers is insufficient. While there are programs to provide these just-in-time supports in a moment of crisis or inflection, we think there’s room for innovation and renewed thinking about how these programs can better suit workers’ lives today. We all have aspirations, whether for ourselves, our families, and our communities, but we don’t all have access to the tools and support we need to realize them.
Workers need agency and autonomy at home, at work, and in their community. At the same time, workers need power in order to shape the forces that impact their lives. The cruel reality today is that agency, autonomy, and power are all severely eroded when workers like my sister don’t have access to just-in-time support for emergencies or wrap around services that help make their personal aspirations real.
For our Spring 2020 Innovation Fund cycle, we’re looking for innovative ideas focused on the various kinds of support workers need to realize the aspirations they have for themselves, their families, and communities. We’re looking for ideas including but not limited to:
- Transportation or transit access to work
- Physical or mental-health and well being
- Communication between workers on a single worksite or across sites
- Protection against wage theft and other exploitative conditions
- Streamlined access to safety net supports and protections in the case of hardship or retirement
- Access to training, education, and transition services
- Work stability and quality
If you, or someone you know, has an innovative idea that improves workers’ lives, we encourage you to apply this cycle. We are eager to learn more about the projects taking a unique approach to helping workers address those immediate needs, that ultimately enable them to exercise more agency in their lives, communities, and society more broadly. I look forward to seeing your ideas.