Ventures One year of the WorkerTech Partnership: investing, connecting, growing 17 December 2021 by Emma Selinger Emma Selinger The end of 2021 marks just over one year of the WorkerTech Partnership, allowing us to reflect on the progress we’ve made so far and our goals for the remainder of the programme. In this time, we’ve invested in five ventures all seeking to improve the world of work for low-paid and precarious workers, built a WorkerTech ecosystem spanning researchers, investors, campaigners and policymakers, and started to develop a WorkerTech impact framework. Improving the experience of work for those on low pay The rising power of technology is widely held to be a force that threatens jobs and weakens labour standards. While high income groups are already served by technology innovations through recruitment, career guidance and freelancing solutions, there is less financial or civic infrastructure in place in the UK that seeks to deploy technology in the service of low-paid or insecure workers. In short, there is an innovation gap that the Resolution Foundation is filling through social investment and ecosystem building via the WorkerTech Partnership. The WorkerTech Partnership is a three-year programme of social investment and support to grow new social ventures tackling low pay; to create a WorkerTech ecosystem; and to create better working lives. It is backed by the Resolution Foundation, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Friends Provident Foundation, Accenture, Ufi VocTech Trust and Trust for London. Our objectives for this programme are: To develop a portfolio of ventures with large-scale impact generating improved outcomes for workers A supportive ecosystem for existing and future ventures Establishing the evidence base for a larger scale social investment fund Large-scale indirect impact via a shift in approach of more established organisations Investments, networks and research: achievements so far We’re delighted that over 80 ventures have been in touch with us seeking investment since the programme launched. From this pipeline, we have made five investments: three pre-seed ventures with BGV into Talia, TaskHer and Curo, and two direct seed investments into Breakroom and Earwig. These ventures join our previous investments in our WorkerTech portfolio. We are aiming to add another four WorkerTech ventures to our portfolio by Spring 2022 by making both direct investments and funding ventures through BGV’s Tech for Good Programme. As we would expect, we heard from many ventures who were addressing skills and training, and career advice and guidance. This area of WorkerTech is already active with other funders such as Ufi VocTech Trust and Nesta Challenges investing in entrepreneurs who are building solutions that support workers make informed choices about training and careers. However, in the next phase of the programme we want to see ideas addressing less serviced worker issues including care worker pay and conditions, jobs for transitioning to a net zero economy, and improving the quality of gig work. To help founders identify these issues and develop scalable technology based solutions, we published two pieces of research which summarise research on low-paid workers in the UK, and how technology can improve financial resilience. Not only have we worked with founders, we have also taken a broader view of the ecosystem around work, employment, innovation, technology and social investment. This has helped us understand markets in which prospective ventures will be trying to grow, and raised awareness about our work with key stakeholders. Through building this network over the past year, we have reached over 2000 people by hosting and speaking at events, publishing research, roundtables, and launching the WorkerTech newsletter. If we’ve missed anyone, get in touch! Developing an impact framework for WorkerTech As an impact investor, we need to be able to both measure our impact on WorkerTech ventures and the ecosystem, and support our portfolio to measure their own impact on the groups of workers we care about. To start developing our own impact framework, we’ve taken inspiration from Accenture’s Skills to Succeed framework (connected, improved, transformed) and integrated this with the four areas (pay, prospects, progression and power) of work we are seeking to improve through the WorkerTech programme. This helps us to map out the different areas where we may be able to quantify and aggregate the impact of our ventures on people’s experience of work. Often ventures in our portfolio are at too early a stage to have a fully developed impact plan. But, we have supported our founders to start thinking about impact measurement using the framework above, alongside other impact management tools including our programme’s theory of change, the Impact Management Project’s impact framework and BGV’s Learning and Impact report. Looking ahead: growing and supporting WorkerTech A year into the programme, we are broadly on track with where we wanted to be. We have made five investments, reached thousands in the WorkerTech ecosystem, published research and started to plan for a future fund. But, there is still much more that we can do to improve our pipeline, engage diverse voices in the ecosystem and ultimately have impact on people in low-paid and insecure work. In light of this, our priorities for the next year are: Test and refine our impact framework with ventures and other organisations working in innovation, impact and good work. Continue to develop a pipeline and portfolio of WorkerTech ventures that tackle a range of issues faced by low-paid workers, are led by diverse founders with lived experience of these issues, and are spread across the UK. Support our current portfolio to grow their ventures and have impact on low-paid workers through support with user research and impact management. Build out the WorkerTech ecosystem further by engaging with policymakers, researchers, investors, ventures and foundations working in this area. We’ll be reaching out to our network early in 2022 looking for support with these priorities. If you’re interested in working with us, please do get in touch in advance via firstname.lastname@example.org.