The close of 2015 marks the end of the first year of The Workers Lab. In this year, we funded organizations that experimented with new business models for lifting workers’ wages, increased workplace protections, and lifted worker voice. We also held space for a national dialogue on how workers can exercise power in the new economy, with our work extending all the way to the White House.
To close this phenomenal first year, we hosted a Demo Day where the ventures we supported presented their business models to our Board and potential investors. We had a conversation on the success, challenges, and promise of our work together. The presentations were very well received. Below is a list of the presenters and a brief description of their work with The Workers Lab.
Coworker.org: a 2015 Accelerator participant, it received a grant and participated in our 9-month business development program. It used these resources to help expand the reach of its online platform, which workers use to improve workplace conditions by starting petition campaigns.
ROC United: another 2015 Accelerator participant, it received a grant-to-equity conversion and participated in our 9-month business development program. It used our resources to build Top Server, a game on a mobile platform that allows workers to develop skills to access better paying jobs in the restaurant industry.
Workers Defense Project: our third and final 2015 Accelerator participant, it received a recoverable grant at no interest paid over two years and participated in our 9-month business development program. Workers Defense used our resources to incorporate Better Builder, an LLC that offers training, monitoring, and certification of development projects in Dallas and Austin, Texas.
Coalition of Immokalee Workers: a 2015 Enterprise Participant, we tested the demand and development of a consulting practice where it could train organizations in setting standards that can improve industry conditions based on its Fair Food Program (FFP). FFP is a model of Worker-Driven Social Responsibility based on partnerships between farmworkers and participating retail buyers, including Subway, Whole Foods, and Walmart.
OUR Walmart: a 2015 Enterprise Institute Participant, we tested its value proposition, developed a business model canvass, and offered mentorship support. OUR Walmart is working on a mobile app, which will allow 55,000 Walmart workers to communicate in real-time and access critical services and advice.
Take Action Minnesota: a 2015 Enterprise Institute Participant, we tested its value proposition, helped develop a business model canvass, and offered mentorship support. It’s working on building a membership organization, which offers services and a united voice to more than 35,000 home care workers in Minnesota.
The Working World: a 2015 Enterprise Institute Participant, we tested its value proposition, developed a business model canvass, and offered mentorship support. It tested the viability of a lending product to support existing small and medium sized businesses to convert into worker owned co-ops.
THIS IS ONLY THE BEGINNING
To build on the excitement of our Demo Day and first year in action, we plan to expand our scope and reach in 2016 by moving toward a broader array of smaller investments and rapid prototyping. We will also complement the incredible momentum of the Fight for 15 movement by looking at how we can use technology to enforce newly won minimum wage policies. Lastly, we will continue to hold and develop space for the exciting conversation on worker power in the new economy.
We’re looking forward to a 2016 where workers have more voice, better wages, and the benefits and conditions for a dignified life for themselves and their families!