Three Winners Receive $150,000 for Helping Workers Come Back Stronger

by Jeshua John, on February 9, 2021 at 5:30 AM

 We are excited to share the winners of The Innovation Fund Fall 2020 grant cycle. These winners will receive $150,000 to bring their ideas centered around workers coming back to fruition.

In September 2020, The Workers Lab put out a call for innovations supporting workers “coming back” stronger, with a first-ever focus on job quality and shared prosperity. The Innovation Fund also was the first of its kind opportunity for rural communities, particularly for California’s Central Valley and Inland Empire--generating nearly 100 applicants from this region alone.

During this COVID-19 pandemic, workers are keeping people fed, housed, and healthy, all while putting their own lives at risk. In response, The Innovation Fund Fall 2020 competition focused on surfacing emerging innovations for protecting and supporting workers, their families, and communities, through this recovery and to help scale quality job training and shared prosperity solutions models in a more systematic way.

This cycle of The Innovation Fund saw so many outstanding worker leaders submit new or innovative approaches to strengthening the economic comeback and supporting historically underserved workers. We were inspired by all the finalists and are excited about our continued emphasis on investing in innovations that build worker power, especially in underserved communities and for underrepresented workers.

With 558 submissions from across 46 states to The Innovation Fund, Fall 2020 applicants were asked to think outside the box about what an inclusive recovery could look like. This brought a spotlight on a variety of issues and presented unique opportunities in affordable childcare, support for small businesses and gig workers, and long-term quality job training and growth for careers in key industries of the future.

The following three innovators have been selected from a record number of applications. Together with our partners at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The New World Foundation Quality Jobs Innovation Fund, and Schmidt Futures, we congratulate these leaders in their efforts to create new ways to protect and support workers, their families, and communities through this recovery and beyond.

“We’re excited to help scale these real-world innovations, early-stage models, new job training ventures in growth industries, and the work of these entrepreneurs that will not only have a direct and immediate impact on working families, but also help shape and advance quality jobs-focused solutions across the country,” said Noah S. Bernstein, Senior Program Officer & Director of the Quality Jobs Fund at the New World Foundation.



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.  

"This funding will help us support family child care providers and working families through the next phase of COVID-19 while also enabling us to take the next steps in scaling this project for long-term sustainability." - Lani Todd, Director of Strategic Initiatives.

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.  

"We are grateful for funding from The Workers Lab. Support from The Innovation Fund will help us make the Driver's Seat Cooperative available to thousands of new gig workers, exponentially increasing the value that they can get from their data." - Hays Witt, CEO. 

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. 

"We greatly appreciate the exposure, support, and consideration of The Innovation Fund. This valuable support will allow us to make our project dynamic and deep-reaching into the most impacted and vulnerable communities. These resources will help us build a pathway to employment for people who are historically disadvantaged and excluded from work." - Sheheryar Kaoosji, Co-Founder and Executive Director.

Could you be the next winner of $150,000?

Are you dreaming up an interesting, new idea with the potential to increase worker power? Find out when our next grant cycle opens. Subscribe to The Innovation Fund email list today.

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Topics: The Innovation Fund