Labor Link by Good World Solutions, led by Heather Franzese, has been named as one of nine finalists in the 2014 Gratitude Awards from the Gratitude Network to be awarded at SOCAP this coming week in San Francisco. The finalists were chosen from among 32 semi-finalists, who were chosen from among nearly 150 applicants. To learn more about the awards and SOCAP, see our story in Forbes. You can read all our coverage of the Gratitude Awards, including profiles of all nine finalists here.
Four winners will be announced on Thursday, September 4, 2014. We obtained a copy of the application from Good World Solutions so we could share it with you below:
Please describe your venture:
Labor Link is the first platform to leverage the disruptive power of mobile to give voice to the global workforce and deliver real-time data to companies like Cisco and Patagonia to align sourcing practices with worker needs – like SurveyMonkey for the 5 billion people without internet access.
What is the problem are you solving and why is this important?
In April, 1,100 workers were killed in a factory collapse in Bangladesh. Why? Because those workers were invisible. When they saw cracks in the walls, they had no channel to report it to the companies buying the clothing they sew, and hence no way to stop this totally preventable tragedy. Millions of low-wage workers endure poor working conditions everyday and suffer in silence because they have no way to communicate with decision-makers.
What is your solution and business model?
Labor Link gives workers a free and anonymous channel – through their own mobile phones – to report on working conditions, opinions and needs in real time. The voice-based system does not require literacy and runs in any language. Workers simply answer short, multiple-choice surveys with their touch-tone keypad and receive educational messages about their rights and local services. Surveys cover every aspect of working conditions – from child labor to fair wages, as well as access to financial services, health and nutrition, livelihoods, and community needs. Labor Link delivers actionable recommendations to decision-makers to address worker needs. Data has been used to address sexual harassment, enhance training and improve worker housing.
What is unique patentable, or otherwise not seen elsewhere about your venture?
Labor Link is the first of its kind. It combines open source IVR technology on simple mobile phones with business intelligence software in a completely new way, both for data capture and data visualization, to give marginalized, low-literacy workers a voice (that’s free and does not require literacy or introduce outside technology) and give companies real-time supply chain transparency to drive tangible improvements in working conditions and avoid the preventable tragedies that have killed hundreds of workers.
Please describe who your customers are and how you know they want your product?
Labor Link is already being used by leading companies like Cisco, Disney, HP, Vodafone, and Patagonia, and award-winning social enterprises like VisionSpring and Fair Trade USA. We have also partnered with the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, an historic consortium of 26 companies, including Walmart, Gap, and Target, to address the issue of worker safety in Bangladesh. Our Labor Link platform is the back-end technology for their Alliance Worker Helpline, which will reach half a million workers in the next 2 years.
In which country does the target population your company serves reside?
Please comment on the strength of the venture’s leadership:
Listed on the Purpose Economy 100 (PE100), Co-Founder Heather Franzese has worked for 15 years to improve the lives of workers. She launched Fair Trade Certified Apparel in the US, managed CSR for Columbia Sportswear, and holds a Masters from Harvard Kennedy School. Co-Founder Tom Rausch is a tech-for-good expert. Tom designed and deployed a SMS platform to deliver market information to smallholder farmers and microfinance banks in Kenya. He holds degrees from the London School of Economics and University of Wisconsin. Under their leadership, Labor Link has grown to reach 100,000 workers and farmers in 12 countries.
Please describe the impact your company will have or is having, the way that you measure your impact, and the scale you plan to reach?
Since 2010, Labor Link surveys have reached workplaces that employ 72,365 workers, farmers and artisans in 9 countries. Our aim is to reach a million workers in the next 5 years. By giving workers a free an anonymous reporting channel, we boost livelihoods, enhance worker-management communication, increase financial security, and facilitate empowered decision-making. Vodafone and Accenture recently released a report called “Connected Worker: How mobile technology can improve working life in emerging economies.” The report specifically cites Labor Link as a model for a new type of mobile-enabled worker engagement. They estimate that by 2020, this type of mobile worker communication has the potential to benefit 18 million workers globally and boost livelihoods by $2.1 billion annually.
How is your organization innovative? Have collaborations with others enabled that innovation?
Labor Link is an innovation in the fields of labor standards and economic development. The voice-based approach allows even those with basic feature phones and/or without literacy to participate at no cost to them. Today, most companies rely on third-party social auditing to police working conditions – a top-down, costly, and highly subjective approach. Labor Link introduces interactive voice response (IVR) technology to achieve cost savings between 67%-80% over in-person interviews or pen and paper surveys. Unlike other platforms that capture data through smartphone or tablet, Labor Link uses basic feature phones and does not require any outside technology, which is more sustainable and appropriate in a village context. Unlike SMS-based interventions, Labor Link also does not require literacy.