Employment and Jobs

The Workers Lab and Future of Work Initiative Announce Partnership to Deepen Understanding of Gig Workers and Work

December 15, 2021  • Shelly Steward & Future of Work Initiative

The Workers Lab and the Aspen Institute Future of Work Initiative are excited to announce a joint project focused on deepening and amplifying our understanding of gig workers and gig work. Even with a massive increase in gig workers over the last decade, policymakers, elected officials, employers, and society at large lack a comprehensive understanding of gig workers’ diverse needs and what solutions will make the biggest difference in their lives.

“A lot of the current data sources use methods misaligned with the realities of gig work that are unlikely to accurately center workers or reflect what is happening,” said Shelly Steward, Director of Aspen Institute’s Future of Work Initiative. “These sources have tended to use outdated categories, to be kept private by researchers, to focus on a narrow population of workers, or to be oriented toward particular political goals.”

“Central to the strategy and success of this effort is that it will be driven entirely by responses from workers,” said Adrian Haro, CEO at The Workers Lab. “We want to know about gig workers’ challenges, needs, desires, and how they want to get to a better place, as well as the commonalities and differences between types of gig workers. Our worker-centered research will aim to answer these questions.”

The project will include undertaking analysis of existing research, hosting forums for open dialogue with workers, and also commissioning our own collaborative research. Our focus is on participatory research methods that start with open-ended questions, and incorporate workers’ perspectives into each iterative stage of the work.

Along the way, key stakeholders will convene, provide input, and discuss findings. Stakeholders will include a cross-section of worker leaders, researchers, and influencers from the private and public sectors. All will come to the table with the shared understanding that workers will center the outcomes.

As research is completed, findings will be made public through convenings, case studies, and toolkits. At the end of this initial effort, we expect to have:

  • Developed a foundational understanding of gig workers’ most pressing challenges and identified solutions that workers feel would impact them personally.
  • Built a cross-sector community of leaders committed to gig and contract worker-centered knowledge who can amplify findings and collectively frame their work from the perspective of gig workers.
  • Established the framework for an ongoing participatory research framework that puts knowledge production in the hands of workers.

Please stay tuned for more on this exciting new project. Join the Future of Work Initiative mailing list to be notified of the latest developments.


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Despite the increase in #gigworkers, many employers and policymakers don’t understand their needs. @theworkerslab and @AspenFutureWork are working to enhance this understanding.

Policymakers, employers, and society at large lack a comprehensive understanding of gig workers’ diverse needs and what solutions will make the biggest difference in their lives. @theworkerslab and @AspenFutureWork are working to correct this.

“A lot of the current data sources use methods misaligned with the realities of #gigwork that are unlikely to accurately center workers or reflect what is happening.” @shellysteward. See how @theworkerslab and @AspenFutureWork are working to change this.

“We want to know about #gigworkers’ challenges, needs, desires, and how they want to get to a better place… Our worker-centered research will aim to answer these questions.” -Adrian Haro. Check out this partnership from @theworkerslab + @AspenFutureWork.

This partnership by @theworkerslab and @AspenFutureWork aims to: understand gig workers’ needs and challenges; build a community of leaders to amplify findings; and establish a research framework that puts knowledge production in the hands of workers.


Learn More

The Future of Work Initiative aims to identify, develop, and amplify solutions that address the challenges of today while building toward a future in which workers are safe, empowered, and equipped to thrive in our changing world. The Future of Work Initiative is an initiative of the Economic Opportunities Program.

The Economic Opportunities Program advances strategies, policies, and ideas to help low- and moderate-income people thrive in a changing economy. Follow us on social media and join our mailing list to stay up-to-date on publications, blog posts, events, and other announcements.