As workers continue to bear the brunt of U.S. labor market trends and experience massive instability, worker innovators across the country are pursuing solutions to the most critical challenges workers face. Too often, though, they experience limited access and restrictions to traditional funding sources, like venture capital, that could help their ideas get off the ground. While philanthropy helps some of these innovators, The Workers Lab recognizes that in the long-run, worker innovators need sustainable sources of revenue to grow and succeed.
The Workers Lab has been investing in worker-centered innovations, giving them a chance to succeed and flourish. Many of our innovators are exploring independent revenue generation (IRG) in order to diversify their funding streams. As these innovations scale, opportunities exist for these groups to have a transformative effect on our society, economy, culture, and politics.
To learn more about how innovators are implementing IRG, The Workers Lab commissioned a study by independent researchers at Christina Garcia Consulting to inform the field. As part of this study, researchers reviewed The Workers Lab's Innovation Fund grant applications and conducted in-depth interviews with eleven innovators pursuing various approaches to IRG.
Several key findings emerged:
- Building a model for IRG takes time and planning to develop, and it is important to center workers in developing new models while being flexible enough to respond to changing conditions and new opportunities.
- Many of the innovators face challenges competing in an economy that systematically undervalues workers, especially as they price their services and raise investment capital.
- Government grants and contracts are another alternative to philanthropic funding that can provide a source of revenue. Accessing this type of funding often requires being able to demonstrate direct value to relevant stakeholders and constituents.
- While these projects alone will not be enough to create a larger economy that centers workers, they can help leverage organized political power and provide new scalable models necessary to start making these changes.
- Over the long-run, government and philanthropy still have a role to play in providing vulnerable workers with the additional services and support they need to stay employed.
We invite you to learn more details about these findings, which are designed to inform innovators interested in pursuing IRG, as well as funding partners seeking to support this work.