How Portify is shaping the future of work
Our strategy for shaping the future of work | Part 2/3
We kicked off this series by describing why we started Portify. In this post, we’ll dive into our approach, or how we plan to shape the Future of Work.
This is a conceptual exploration of our strategy. The post is not intended to describe our implementation plans in detail.
At Portify, we believe the Future of Work will be built by giving all workers access to a set of enablers. We use a three layer model to conceptualise these. Each layer allows for the next, bottom-up.
The model was inspired by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which we’ve re-envisioned through a Future of Work lens. It’s also influenced by Albert Wenger’s book, World After Capital. Let’s walk through them.
Layer 1: build worker economic security
Primal to all human functioning is a basic level of economic security. It’s the fundamental building block to all other layers. While many workers in the UK have this need met, a growing cohort do not.
In-work poverty is rising in the UK, and making matters worse, poverty comes at a premium. We expect the situation to get worse, following the growth in insecure transient work and wealth concentration.
Without disposable income, individuals cannot function in capitalist societies where cash is queen. I don’t think much proof is required to make this point. Having a dependable source of income is essential. Without it, your freedom to pursue other endeavours is restricted. It’s why concepts like Universal Basic Income (UBI) have recently started getting attention, in preparation for the Future of Work.
So a foundation layer of economic security is a must for building a Future of Work that works for all. Unfortunately policies like UBI are a long way from being implemented. In the meantime, our first go-to-market tool is attempting to increase access to economic security, by automating state benefit claims in the UK.
Layer 2: free worker cognitive capacity
Building economic security comes with an amazing side effect: freeing up cognitive capacity.
It’s clear that volatile income can impact our wellbeing. Poverty comes with a financial premium, and also a tax on physical and mental health.
This intuitively makes sense. Constantly worrying about income, bills and making ends meet is an immense source of stress. Having a secure income reduces stress, gives peace of mind, and frees cognitive capacity to apply elsewhere.
Cognitive capacity can also be freed by automating administrative tasks through the use of technology.
This is especially true for the self-employed, as they shoulder significant admin workload relative to peers in employment. Making matters worse, incumbent welfare and employment systems are often not self-employed friendly. This workload distracts from tasks that are challenging to begin with, whether that’s growing a business, saving up for retirement, or skills development.
The Portify app will support workers by automating such tasks, starting with state benefits claims. Our ambition is to build a suite of HR tools for independent workers that frees up cognitive capacity. This cognitive capacity enables the final layer in our model: worker led value creation.
Layer 3: provide data and tools for worker led value creation
This is by far the most exciting layer. It’s the layer which enables flexible, decentralised forms of work to reach full potential. And that’s because freed up cognitive capacity can be directed at innovation, driven by the worker, provided they have the right set of data and tools. Done right, it’s the layer that also has potential to lift many out of in-work poverty, and into higher levels of economic prosperity.
The un-siloing and sharing of data between independent workers is the first step to making this layer work. For example, if workers can share earnings data with each other, they can set better price points for their services. It would also let workers choose which companies to work for, based on optimal earnings potential. Such sharing could forge new relations and solidarity between workers too, opening up opportunities for unions 2.0. More on that fascinating topic, here.
Having freed up data, providing tools to help form new, decentralised units of working comes next. These tools will most certainly be digital, scalable, and shared by workers across the globe. We’ve already come across tools that allow freelancer co-operatives to decentralise budgeting, project planning and financing.
An example of a tech developer co-op using such tools is Outlandish in the UK. We suspect there will be many more to come. In the meantime, we’re really excited to be part of an ongoing discussion with Co-ops UK on digital co-op accelerators — we’ll talk about this more in our next and final post.
Frequently, the debate around concepts like UBI fail to elaborate on this final layer. They emphasise the importance of economic security, at the expense of defining what workers would do, and what kind of tools and support they would need, once access to such security is provided.
At Portify, we believe this last layer is actually the most important, and also the most challenging to get right. Without this layer, the Future of Work cannot reach its full potential. Put the other way, building this layer is going to unlock huge amounts of value, and we hope to be a catalyst in this process.
The aim of this post was to cover the how component of Portify’s strategy. In the next post, we’ll cover the most exciting (and totally hypothetical) what, i.e., what we think the Future of Work could look like.