Profile of AAPI Innovators

by Jeshua John, on May 15, 2023 at 2:35 PM

The Workers Lab is celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month by profiling a sampling of the tremendous AAPI-led innovations we’re proud to have supported, including FreeFrom, Wiggle Room, and United for Respect Education Fund.

We met Sonya Passi of FreeFrom and Jaime-Jin Lewis of Wiggle Room back in 2020 during our Spring and Fall innovation cycles. And we met Catherine Huang of United for Respect Education Fund the next year. Since meeting them, we’ve loved seeing all three of their organizations thrive, and we encourage you to check out their great work. 

FreeFrom focuses on supporting survivors of gender-based violence by building long-lasting and all-encompassing support, rooted in financial security. When we first funded FreeFrom with a $150,000 grant, it was leveraging technology and innovation to create pathways to financial security and long-term safety for survivors. Through its Survivor Work Safety Lab, FreeFrom is developing and piloting a set of guidelines with employees and employer partners that will transform workplaces into hubs of wellness and support for survivors. The Lab is part of FreeFrom's efforts to catalyze society’s institutions (e.g. banks, employers, city, state, and federal governments) to help create an ecosystem of support in which survivors can thrive. Since they received a grant over three years ago, FreeFrom has worked to build survivors' collective power, support the capacity of organizations and survivors working within the movement, and publish original research examining the intersection of gender-based violence and financial security. Their national scorecard rates states on how well they support survivor wealth, and they support a number of policy initiatives such as expanding legal definitions of domestic violence to include economic abuse, an effort that New York City recently passed. This powerful organization is led by the amazing Sonya Passi, who we’re thrilled to feature as part of our support of AAPI communities this month. Learn more about Sonya and the great work FreeFrom is doing.

Wiggle Room is a New York City-based tech startup tasked with making childcare as accessible as possible. Wiggle Room is building power in the family childcare industry (FCCs) by aggregating providers, automating operations, facilitating non-traditional hour care, and introducing mechanisms for employers to pay into the system, expanding access to quality, affordable childcare for low-income parents while also raising worker wages. Since TWL funded Wiggle Room in 2020 with a $20,000 grant, the organization has launched an updated app, amplified its support and work on behalf of childcare providers, and continued building its resource hub for parents. This year, they are piloting a dynamic childcare scheduling tool for shift workers who often fall through the cracks of the existing system. Wiggle Room’s CEO is Jaime-Jin Lewis, a powerhouse who has helped the team grow and thrive throughout the pandemic. We’re thrilled to feature her as part of our support for AAPI Innovators this month. Learn more about this growing organization and how you can support their work here.

We’re thrilled to amplify the work of United for Respect Education Fund. They elevate 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. Catherine Huang, the organization’s Chief Technology Officer, co-created a platform called WorkIt that is catalyzing leadership development through technology by helping organizers listen and learn from their members, activate users into worker leaders, and spotlight opportunities for deeper engagement. The Workers Lab provided WorkIt a $150,000 grant in 2021 because we saw the potential for the technology to surface insights about community members - who is engaging, how they are engaging, who they are engaging with, what actions have they taken, and what additional leadership activities they might want. Ultimately, organizers can connect with users much more effectively, and efficiently, and with far less manual oversight and management. We’re thrilled to amplify WorkIt and Catherine Huang’s leadership during AAPI month! Learn more about their great work.

Topics: Design Sprint| Learning Hub