Introducing: The Young Workers' Lab 🚀
It started with two friends...
Christina and Jonnie met in 2017. They became fast friends over a wild idea: using artificial intelligence and other digital technologies to empower young people in the digital world of work.
Fast forward to 2019 and we are ready to announce The Young Workers Lab, a new pop-up research center in the Future World of Work division of UNI Global Union. The lab aims to support unions’ organising, bargaining, campaigning by getting access to members’ opinions in new ways, particularly the opinions of young members. We build custom apps and share best practices to help unions leverage new powerful tools. We work hard to unlock this potential in a responsible, cooperative way.
Is Success Guaranteed?
Wild ideas are like coffee: they may come with a crash. We expect this. We will share failures proudly so you don’t have to repeat the same mistakes. We will also profile success stories of those making progressive efforts in related areas.
Interested to join in? Please be in touch! The project is first and foremost here to listen to, support and campaign for young workers. We want to broker new social contracts that take stock of the realities of the digital era, such as burnout, zero-hour contracts, and the increasingly transparent global mental health epidemic.
You see things; and you say Why? But I dream things that never were; and I say Why not?George Bernard Shaw
A responsible use of digital technologies
The meteoric rise of Facebook (now at 2 billion users) reminds us of the great power that lies in digital technologies. However, as Uncle Ben once told Spider Man, 'With great power comes great responsibility.'
In a moment of historic levels of digital surveillance and workplace manipulation, we want to lead by example to show how digital technologies can be used responsibly to make young people's lives better, particularly their work life. This builds from the bottom up, rather than the top down.
- The first research area asks: how can digital tools help workers express their ideas to each other more effectively? We are trialing a new, simple-to-use service called Thought Exchange that gives users the ability to send a text message or tweet length answer to a virtual Q&A via their smart phone (anonymously, if desired). They can see others' responses and up-vote the ones they like most! This allows unions to host a 'Virtual Town Hall' at any time, from any place, with ease.
- The second research area asks: how can the sensors on worker's smartphones be used to empower workers in the digital world of work? We're now exploring a system that would give workers the ability to access information from their phone to collectively bargain with.
- The third research area asks: how can responsible data governance provide a fair level of value to workers in the digital world? In the bold spirit of cooperation and teamwork, we explore how social benefits could be made 'interoperable' so that unions could share their wisdom and power with the world more effectively.
- Co-Design: we commit to building/testing tools with our union partners, for our union partners
- Consent: we commit to users right of informed consent
- Data Minimisation: we will only record what users choose to share, during the limited period of time they choose to share it (nothing more)
The Young Workers Lab is committed to using the potential of emerging technologies to accomplish social good. We have established a diverse advisory team to make sure the lab's initiatives are grounded in the experiences of workers and informed by cutting edge technology possibilities. We will announce the membership of this team in the near future. The team behind the lab are:
Christina Colclough (@cjcolclough) is Director of Platform and Agency Workers, Digitalisation and Trade at UNI, and a leading voice on the future world of work globally.
Jonnie Penn (@jonniepenn) is an internationally sought after AI expert and advocate based at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.
Director | UNI Global
The Future World of Work
Founder | Centr.ai
Co-Designing Digital Tools for a Better Future