The Workers Lab would not exist without innovators. They are at the heart of everything we do, which is why we’ve been catching up with some of our past innovators to hear about what they’ve been up to, what they’ve learned, and what’s on the horizon as they continue the amazing work of supporting and innovating with workers.
For the past four months, we’ve profiled several of the innovators we’ve had the opportunity to support in the updates section of our website, including:
- Canary, which works with employers across the country to ensure workers have access to emergency cash as part of their benefits package. The Workers Lab had the honor of incubating Canary, which is now a standalone and successful business centered around delivering a service to improve the financial security of workers at scale.
- Pride Month profiles of our own CEO, Adrian Haro, and one of our 2021 Innovation Fund winners, Black & Pink, which helps Black and Brown LGBTQIA2S+ sex workers develop and control their own businesses.
- Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month profile of three AAPI innovators: Sonya Passi of FreeFrom, Jaime-Jin Lewis of Wiggle Room, and Catherine Huang of United for Respect Education Fund. FreeFrom focuses on supporting survivors of gender-based violence by building long-lasting and all-encompassing support, rooted in financial security; Wiggle Room is a New York City-based tech startup tasked with making childcare as accessible as possible; United for Respect Education Fund elevates the voices of those employed in the retail economy to ensure industry leaders and policymakers provide jobs that lead to a safe and economically secure life.
- National Nurses Week profile of Health Innovator, formerly Nurse to Innovator, which provides training, prototyping, product development support, mentoring, office hours, and more, that meets their innovator’s needs for flexibility so they can keep working in the health care field. Nancy Lowery, the group’s Senior Director of Innovation, shared “The Workers Lab funds enabled us to launch an initial cohort with nurses and other front-line workers that gave us a deeper appreciation of the challenges these innovators face while also working as healthcare professionals.”
- Earth Day profile of the Clean Car Wash Worker Center, which integrates environmental protection, green products, and water conservation throughout its efforts to increase safety standards for car wash workers in Los Angeles.
- The Mississippi Workers Center for Human Rights, which fights for the dignity and safety of Mississippi’s Black and Brown workers with low wages. They regularly conduct Know Your Rights health and safety training, create worker power-building opportunities led by workers, and incubate worker-led organizing and advocacy strategies.
- The Leap Fund is a women-led nonprofit helping workers navigate the “benefits cliff” that many have to face when deciding between earning a dollar or two more per hour or losing valuable safety net benefits, like childcare subsidies or SNAP.
Through hearing their updates, we’ve observed consistent learning as a common theme across all of our innovators: They not only recognize the importance of listening to workers throughout design, development, and implementation but also use that feedback to evolve and adapt the ways with which they are serving workers.
As Leap Fund’s founder Karen Schoellkopf artfully put it in her recommendation to future innovators: “Endlessly and continuously talk to the workers that you serve to understand their challenges and joys. There are so many ways we can shortcut work by assuming we know their challenges. But assuming you understand the challenges of any subset of workers can lead to mistakes quickly.”
This concept, of listening to and centering innovation around workers, is core to our work at The Workers Lab. It’s been the key to our own success because we know that workers are the best and most knowledgeable advocates for their work and their lives. Throughout this profile series, it’s humbling to be reminded that even those of us working closest to workers always have something new to learn.
We’ve shared this series on our website and social media channels, and we will continue to highlight the great work of our past innovators moving forward, so if you’d like to receive these updates sign up now and follow us on our social channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn).