Supporting the Non-Standard Workforce

Worksystems and The Workers Lab have funded a project focused on residents who seek local work but not necessarily a traditional full-time job. Public agencies in California have launched a labor platform that specifically supports these often-marginalized individuals. Could it also work in Portland?

Badged FlexPDX for our region, the platform was developed in British government programs then Americanized with funding from national U.S. philanthropies. It was piloted during the pandemic by the workforce board serving Long Beach, CA, and surrounding cities. That led to expansion from childcare workers to embrace the rest of the regional workforce. 

The platform is built around protections, control, and progression for anyone who needs employment that fits around other commitments in their life. It operates under local control in each area.

How might Portland exploit a local platform supporting a quality flexible labor market?

  •  A new choice for workers: About 35% of Americans now do at least some work outside a traditional job. They have unpredictable medical issues, fluctuating childcare/caregiving commitments, or partial employment they wish to retain. We want to bring residents in this group into our formal labor market, offering an alternative to often exploitative “gig work” apps.
  • Incremental rungs on the labor market ladder: People struggling with houselessness and other challenges may not be ready to go straight into full time employment. We want to offer a ladder that can start with just a few hours’ work when the person feels capable, possibly with support from a “work buddy” scheduled alongside them.
  • Responsive services: Street outreach, extreme weather shelters, childcare, clean-up crews; a diverse range of services benefit from including a localized, flexibly deployed, set of trained workers, each working at times that suit them.

Our partners in this exploration:

  • Cultivate Initiatives: Serving our unhoused and other marginalized communities, Cultivate Initiatives are providing the initial leadership on this project while being first user of the platform locally. They will transition control to a group of regional stakeholders later.
  • MM4A non-profit: The organization that emerged from U.K. government programs, now transferring technology and expertise internationally.
  • The Workers Lab: Focused on innovations that support lower-income workers, the Workers Lab are funding expansion beyond the first implementation in Long Beach.

Dialogue around the region is continuing. You may be contacted by us, or one of our partners, seeking to establish if or how this initiative might serve your organization. These links offer more detailed information:


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