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How Social Innovators Will Shape the Future of Work

Cornerstone Editors

As technology shifts how both employers and employees operate, organizations are emerging specifically to help people prepare for the future of work. While competition for talent is more intense than ever in some areas, many people have been left behind by shifting work dynamics: Gallup estimates that 4.9 percent of people are unemployed, and another 12.6 percent are underemployed.

Last month, Google.org pledged $50 million to help organizations address this growing skills gap and build the workforce of the future. "We want to make sure that as many people as possible can make the most of the new jobs, industries and opportunities that are emerging—some of which we couldn't have imagined just a few years ago," wroteJacquelline Fuller, president of Google.org.

Over the next two years, Google.org has committed to funding social enterprises dedicated to expanding economic opportunities, including improvements to job searching, skills building, job matching and more.

The first four grantees are Social FinanceNational Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), Bayes Impact and Code for America. In addition to the funding, each organization will also benefit from Google employees' volunteer time for technical advice. We caught up with Social Finance and the National Domestic Workers Alliance to hear about their vision for how the funding will shape the future of work.

Building a New Generation of Workers

Social Finance focuses on cultivating younger generations of workers who will carry the economy forward.

"We believe it's essential to direct resources toward building our future workforce, and that doing so will have far-reaching implications for members of our communities, as well as for the overall health of our economy," says Anna Fogel, director at Social Finance. "Beyond the individual benefits, a well-educated, skilled workforce is an essential part of the long-term health of our local, regional and national economies."

Fogel oversees the first round of projects employing Google.org funds, which focus on improving career outcomes for disadvantaged young people by equipping them with technical skills. The funding has helped Social Finance expand its Pay for Successinitiative, which drives social service resources towards programs serving those who need it most, such as at-risk youth.

"We will seek to expand promising programs that improve economic opportunity for at-risk youth," says Fogel. "It means that we will focus programs on producing and measuring outcomes such as improved earnings and job retention, and increased enrollment in post-secondary education."

Sub-grantees of Social Finance's "Catalyzing Career and Technical Education through Pay for Success" program, which is supported in part by a portion of the funding from Google.org. Credit: NAF.

Connecting a Disaggregated Workforce

Palak Shah, social innovations director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, says that the nonprofit applied for Google.org's funding because of its work at the intersection of some of society's most pressing issues: family care, the future of work and income inequality.

"Domestic workers—the nannies who care for the colicky baby, caregivers who comfort the disoriented grandparent and cleaners who keep our homes tidy—continue to be among the most vulnerable and unprotected workers in our economy," she says. "They have long been part of the informal and invisible economy, working without contracts, security or labor law protections. But given the rapid way that work is changing, more and more people find themselves working in similar conditions, so, in a way, you could say that domestic workers are the original gig workers."

For NDWA, technology isn't a threat—it's an opportunity. "The domestic work sector has long been informal and disaggregated," says Shah. "And while tech platforms have changed the way caregivers and cleaners find and manage their work, they are also aggregating a workforce that has never been connected in this way before."

NDWA plans to use the funding to expand its digital tools to improve the lives of domestic workers: Connectivity not only provides workers with peace of mind when it comes to issues like health insurance, but also gives them a sense of community. The hope is that those tools—such as its Alia technology, which pools money among domestic workers, so that they can take paid sick days or purchase dental insurance—will be helpful to workers in other industries where benefits aren't easily accessible.

"As work rapidly changes, we have the opportunity once in a few generations to lay the foundation for a new type of economy," says Shah. "One that works for all of us, not just a few."

Photo: Twenty20

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