Solution Overview

Solution Name:

Nest Makers United

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One-line solution summary:

Nest empowers US-based makers with access to more vibrant and digitally inclusive resources that create sustainable livelihoods.

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Pitch your solution.

The Covid-19 pandemic illuminated the digital divide for small businesses across the country. Even more critically, entrepreneurs found themselves having to rapidly shift to online or technology-enabled commerce to survive and those with limited digital or social media skills were at a severe disadvantage. Nest’s work focuses specifically within the handicraft maker economy, which is rapidly growing. As consumer demand for local and handmade goods, makers from under-resourced communities are left behind.  Developing the needs of makers requires broadening and supporting availability of digital skills, training opportunities, and access to essential digital devices, functional internet to create an equitable response to this challenge. Nest specifically looks to expand digital resources through the leveraging of a digital learning platform specifically tailored to and dedicated for makers throughout the country. Addressing inequitable access to resources and support, specifically among BIPOC makers, allows for more e-commerce opportunities, which are critical to long-term success. 

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Film your elevator pitch.

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What specific problem are you solving?

Worldwide, handcraft workers are often overlooked by the supply chains they support. As the global economy becomes increasingly data-driven, the handcraft sector (valued at $526B in 2017 and is estimated to be worth $984B by 2023) is threatened to be left behind, taking a significant toll on this predominantly female workforce. 

Furthermore, an absence of a basic online presence like a website, social media, or tools like an e-catalog of products can greatly limit market opportunities in an increasingly digital and e-commerce driven sector. For artisan entrepreneurs, especially those located in rural areas or with lesser resources, digital technologies can expand their reach, bring broader visibility, market information, and enable online sales. Involving artisan businesses in the digital economy is critical to connecting to a new and growing customer base. 

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What is your solution?

Nest is building a more vibrant and inclusive Maker Movement across the United States and globally by supporting maker entrepreneurs who often face barriers to accessing training and development resources needed to expand their small businesses and create sustainable livelihoods. This means addressing the digital divide which disproportionately affects BIPOC makers and blocks them from taking advantage of eCommerce opportunities which are critical to long-term success. Nest aims to ensure the growing movement is generating economic opportunities for all makers, regardless of their gender, race, economic means, or ability. With an emphasis on amplifying the work of emergent artists and makers, Nest is committed to economic inclusion and to addressing unique challenges creative entrepreneurs face in developing, growing, and sustaining small businesses. Omnichannel approaches to growing online sales remain a critical need to raising their brand awareness and affinity and to their long-term economic sustainability.

Nest’s solution focuses on three critical needs areas aimed at ensuring long-term sustainability:

1.Providing assistance to more makers looking to launch independent eCommerce shops 

 2. Conducting training to independently maintain and grow digital literacy and online presence without reliance on external organizations 

3. Establishing systems/structures for community access to free, low-cost, and reliable internet access

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Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?

Presently, very little is being done to bring attention to the overlooked makers and craft business owners throughout the US. Nest is fighting to prioritize the needs of makers to help to unlock their economic power and potential.

Nest creates opportunities for long-term economic growth and financial inclusion in this primarily informal homeworker economy—often providing a significant income stream for women and mothers who need the flexibility to care for children and other dependents. The impact of supporting and building up these female entrepreneurs can have a major impact.  McKinsey Global Institute estimates that if as many women as men took part in the formal economy, $28 trillion would be added to the global GDP. 

Sourcing opportunities for SME businesses have significantly increased since the country's long-overdue social justice movement took hold following the death of George Floyd. However as more companies are making commitments to working with BIPOC makers, a digital connection is essential for those hidden makers to access this unprecedented market access opportunity. This is a remarkable opportunity to integrate an untouched and ignored global workforce into the digital economy and provide access to e-commerce platforms, blockchain technology, and mobile phone innovations for collecting and aggregating data in a data-poor environment.

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Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Equip everyone, regardless of age, gender, education, location, or ability, with culturally relevant digital literacy skills to enable participation in the digital economy.
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Explain how the problem you are addressing, the solution you have designed, and the population you are serving align with the Challenge.

Nest is sensitive to the unique challenges hidden makers face, including limited access to technology and digital know-how. Working alongside makers within the community, we aim to provide the tools and resources needed to be successful. We are committed to ensuring that the workshops and digital skills training meet participants where they are and provide them with actionable plans to maintain their eCommerce operations long-term.

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In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?

New York, NY, USA
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What is your solution’s stage of development?

Growth: An organization with an established product, service, or business model rolled out in one or, ideally, several communities, which is poised for further growth.
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Explain why you selected this stage of development for your solution.

While Nest continues to expand Makers United into cities and regions across the country, we recognize long-standing craft communities overlooked across the nation, despite their important contributions to American craft history and culture. In an effort to support these communities through both business development expertise and increased visibility among both wholesale and retail consumers, Nest is looking to expand our city-based approach to include these domestic initiatives for 2021:

  • Gee's Bend Quilters: women quilters from the remote community in Alabama have created hundreds of quilt masterpieces from the early 20th century to the present. 

  • Gullah Weavers: descendants of slaves who settled on barrier islands in South Carolina are known to preserve their cultural traditions, like the unique basket weaving technique with local sweetgrass reeds. 

  • Indigenous Makers: Native artisans have long inspired a market of traditional craft techniques that highlight the maker's heritage.

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Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Nicole Franklin, Director of Makers United

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More About Your Solution

Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new business model or process that relies on technology to be successful
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What makes your solution innovative?

An example of our innovative solution lies in the Quilters of Gee's Bend. Our partnership with this community began last year, to incentivize the continuation of the heritage quilting tradition by making it a viable economic option. In The Bend, a unique craft tradition of quilting emerged from their shared history and lineage. What began with a practical purpose became a medium to showcase shared community values and pay homage to their cultural identity. Although the quilts have national and international recognition, the fame of this heritage craft has not translated into economic advancement for the community which has an average income of around $12,000 annually. Some residents live without electricity, plumbing, or internet access leading many to abandon the tradition. In the last year, Nest worked to support the quilters to preserve their skills by leveraging new digital market opportunities and collaborations with partners like Etsy, and American Giant. Preparation to sell quilts online involved collecting oral histories, documenting inventory and pricing, taking product photos, creating a shipping and logistics process, setting up bank accounts, and navigating other Etsy seller requirements. Establishing a presence in digital commerce is crucial to the long-term economic success of quilters, their families, and community. Moreover, the ability to promote and market their crafts to an audience that appreciates their beauty, craftsmanship, and heritage is crucial to protecting the cultural value of these goods. To date, Nest work has brought over $330,000 in direct income to the community impacting 31 quilters and their families. 

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Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Ancestral Technology & Practices
  • Crowd Sourced Service / Social Networks
  • Software and Mobile Applications
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Select the key characteristics of your target population.

  • Women & Girls
  • LGBTQ+
  • Elderly
  • Rural
  • Peri-Urban
  • Urban
  • Poor
  • Low-Income
  • Middle-Income
  • Refugees & Internally Displaced Persons
  • Minorities & Previously Excluded Populations
  • Persons with Disabilities
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Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?

  • 1. No Poverty
  • 3. Good Health and Well-being
  • 4. Quality Education
  • 5. Gender Equality
  • 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • 10. Reduced Inequality
  • 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • 12. Responsible Consumption and Production
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In which countries do you currently operate?

  • Afghanistan
  • Angola
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Argentina
  • Armenia
  • Australia
  • Bahamas, The
  • Bangladesh
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Bolivia
  • Botswana
  • Brazil
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Cambodia
  • Cameroon
  • Chile
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Cuba
  • Djibouti
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • El Salvador
  • Ethiopia
  • France
  • Germany
  • Ghana
  • Greece
  • Grenada
  • Guatemala
  • Guyana
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Côte d'Ivoire
  • Jamaica
  • Japan
  • Jordan
  • Kenya
  • Kiribati
  • South Korea
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Laos
  • Lebanon
  • Lesotho
  • Libya
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Malaysia
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Mauritius
  • Mexico
  • Mongolia
  • Morocco
  • Namibia
  • Nepal
  • New Zealand
  • Nicaragua
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Rwanda
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Senegal
  • Seychelles
  • Sierra Leone
  • Solomon Islands
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sudan
  • Sweden
  • Syria
  • Taiwan, China
  • Tanzania
  • Thailand
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Tuvalu
  • Uganda
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Uruguay
  • Uzbekistan
  • Venezuela, RB
  • Vietnam
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe
  • Palestinian Territories
  • Myanmar
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In which countries will you be operating within the next year?

  • Afghanistan
  • Angola
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Argentina
  • Armenia
  • Australia
  • Bahamas, The
  • Bangladesh
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Bolivia
  • Botswana
  • Brazil
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Cambodia
  • Cameroon
  • Chile
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Cuba
  • Djibouti
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • El Salvador
  • Ethiopia
  • France
  • Germany
  • Ghana
  • Greece
  • Grenada
  • Guatemala
  • Guyana
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Côte d'Ivoire
  • Jamaica
  • Japan
  • Jordan
  • Kenya
  • Kiribati
  • South Korea
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Laos
  • Lebanon
  • Lesotho
  • Libya
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Malaysia
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Mauritius
  • Mexico
  • Mongolia
  • Morocco
  • Namibia
  • Nepal
  • New Zealand
  • Nicaragua
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Rwanda
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Senegal
  • Seychelles
  • Sierra Leone
  • Solomon Islands
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sudan
  • Sweden
  • Syria
  • Taiwan, China
  • Tanzania
  • Thailand
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Tuvalu
  • Uganda
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Uruguay
  • Uzbekistan
  • Venezuela, RB
  • Vietnam
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe
  • Palestinian Territories
  • Myanmar
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How many people does your solution currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?

Currently: 10,267 makers

1 year: 10,780 makers

5 years: 13475 makers

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How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?

Nest measures program impact through qualitative and quantitative metrics using diverse tools to capture, aggregate, and analyze data from key stakeholders, including compliance evaluation, needs assessments, baseline and post-program surveys, worker surveys, on-site visits, and interviews.

Key Program Outcomes for Makers United include: 

  • Local implementing partner(s) and prospective makers represent key diversity demographics of the local geography.

  • Makers engaged in each of the core programming phases of work represent key diversity demographics of the local geography. 

  • Makers are connected to existing resources and an ecosystem of support both locally and nationally.

  • Makers achieve greater product sales or exposure by expanding into new markets or attaining a larger market share.

  • Stakeholders gains insights regarding the local maker landscape and available resources

  • Nest brings visibility to underrepresented makers and the challenges they face to inclusion

  • Increase in staff and shifts in business maturity over time

  • Changes in revenue 

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About Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

Nonprofit

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How many people work on your solution team?

20 Full Time, 1 Part-Time employee, 7 contractors  

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How long have you been working on your solution?

5 years

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How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

Nest has been a leader in the handworker space for 15 years by engaging stakeholders at every level, impacting makers and artisans on the ground in over 119 counties to influencing corporate policy shifts, and uncovering unprecedented data on the sector. 

In 2017 at the United Nations, Nest launched the first of its program to bring transparency and training to artisans and makers. Nest’s program and approach have been endorsed and adopted by prominent industry leaders including Bloomberg Philanthropies, Patagonia, Target, West Elm, PVH, and Amazon. Nest’s network includes 1500+ small and micro-businesses participating in our work, leading to beneficiary informed and data-backed programming approaches. 

Rebecca van Bergen founded Nest in 2006, as an effort to build a new handworker economy that enhances global workforce inclusivity and women’s wellbeing. Rebecca is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, Ashoka Fellow, and  GLG Social Impact Fellow. Nest’s team of experts, many having their careers dedicated to gender equity and advancement, work alongside homeworkers and handwork businesses to design impactful programming. The team has experience working virtually and on the ground to capture data and information from relevant stakeholders and populations, and understands cultural nuances critical to working successfully with the informal sector and subcontractors within various supply chains. The Nest team is 90% women, with 80% female-led departments. Nest staff members, 42% of which self-identify as non-white or multi/bi-racial. Nest’s network of businesses across 119 countries are 76% female-founded, employing 279,001 artisans, 88% of which are female. 

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What is your approach to building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive leadership team?

At the heart of Nest’s mission, values and program design is the belief that diversity, equity and inclusion are fundamental building blocks to be stronger, smarter and more impactful. To us, diversity takes into account identified and lived religion and worship practices, veteran or military service status, able-bodiedness, language, educational pathways, and interdisciplinary expertise. To us, equity exists when individuals have equal opportunity to achieve success which may mean different services, offerings or support to overcome structural barriers impacting the individual. To us, inclusion is ensuring that all programs, organizational design, and leadership  allow for participants to equally voice their perspectives and experiences and that all points of view have equal consideration when solving problems, implementing solutions, creating programs or advancing Nest’s work and impact.

We are committed to ensuring our Staff and Board understand that diversity, inclusion, and equity are intimately connected to our mission and critical to success. We will continually work to recruit, retain and develop a diverse group of leaders/staff and create a working environment that is inclusive, listening-focused, and learning-forward. 

As a listening and learning focused organization, we are committed to continually training on DEI issues as well as anti-racism work for personal and professional development.

We realize this work is active and will require on-going review to acknowledge and respond to on-going insights to improve our policies, systems, programs, and organizational design to ensure we achieve these goals. 

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Your Business Model & Partnerships

Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?

Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)
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Partnership & Prize Funding Opportunities

Why are you applying to Solve?

Compounding global crises have exposed deep health, racial, and gender inequalities, and a widening economic gap. As Covid-19 spread in 2020, businesses closed their offices and workers became familiar with working from home: something the global craft sector has been familiar with for generations. 

This new reality revealed that cottage industry models are a productive and resilient approach that should inform international development, as well as community revitalization here at home.  And, at a time when there is an urgent call to listen to BIPOC voices, these models may suggest a “new” way of work -- already perfected by Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities for centuries. The pandemic illuminated the need to address the digital skills shortages within the artisan sector and improve access to digital opportunities in metropolitan and rural areas. Providing support and training in emerging technologies for handworkers can create new lucrative and sustainable business models with market potential. 

We are excited to apply with Solve because, at this moment, we have a unique opportunity to understand the overlooked informal creative economy that is fueled by women’s labor and create a more equitable digital inclusion in the artisan marketplace. We will use this opportunity to bring digital access and opportunity to overlooked makers by building a movement for gender equity and racial justice within the handcraft sector. This under-recognized sector has limited visibility and voice, yet the tremendous potential for sustainable long-term change. 

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In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

  • Monitoring & Evaluation (e.g. collecting/using data, measuring impact)
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Please explain in more detail here.

While we have an impact, data collection, and analysis expertise on our team, the populations that Nest serves as quite diverse so finding universally applicable impact metrics, beyond more basic metrics such as reach, can sometimes be difficult. Depending on the community, digital literacy, exposure, and access can vary. Nest has instead looked at the output of the interventions they have taken and the integration of technology, knowing that those inputs can vary depending on community need and desire. Outputs that have traditionally been looked at include an increase in product sales and overall business growth such as staffing changes. However, in light of Covid, 2020 will continue to be an outlier in annual metrics and impact review. Nest is currently in need of a thought partner to assess the best way to look at resilience and impact in spite of covid. For example, looking at things like business survival and continuation versus growth.

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What organizations would you like to partner with, and how would you like to partner with them?

Nest would welcome the opportunity to partner with Solve members who are focused on entrepreneurship and creative economy development. We would welcome the opportunity to partner with MIT faculty, particularly as we look to launch a State of the US Handworker Economy Report later this year with unprecedented data on the sector. Partnerships with government and local governing bodies would also be useful, as Nest uncovers structural barriers that communities face.

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The ASA Prize for Equitable Education? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

No, I do not wish to be considered for this prize, even if the prize funder is specifically interested in my solution

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The Andan Prize for Innovation in Refugee Inclusion? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

Yes, I wish to apply for this prize

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Explain how you are qualified for this prize. How will your team use The Andan Prize for Innovation in Refugee Inclusion to advance your solution?

Our world is experiencing the highest levels of human displacement on record. Compelled to action, Nest commits itself to the following objectives aligned with our nonprofit mission:

  •  Harnessing the unifying power of craft to build cultural bridges that break down the hateful stereotypes perpetuating issues of displacement;

  • Generating opportunities for gainful economic employment through craft-based business, with particular attention to fostering solutions that work with limited infrastructure and access to resources

  • Helping to heal the personal and collective psychological pain caused by forcible displacement

In support of these goals, Nest is carrying out a number of projects that leverage artisan employment as a constructive solution to alleviating the world’s refugee crisis.

Funding would allow Nest to build on our important work with refugee entrepreneurs bringing about a successful programming model to the many refugee makers around the country. 


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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The HP Prize for Advancing Digital Equity? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

Yes, I wish to apply for this prize

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Explain how you are qualified for this prize. How will your team use The HP Prize for Advancing Digital Equity to advance your solution?

Nest is sensitive to the unique challenges hidden makers face, including limited access to technology and digital know-how. Working alongside makers within the community, we aim to provide the tools and resources needed to be successful. We are committed to ensuring that the workshops and digital skills training meet participants where they are and provide them with actionable plans to maintain their eCommerce operations long-term.

Funding would allow Nest to build upon our important work and expand digital access to the resources and technology needed for makers to thrive and create sustainable livelihoods.


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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for the Innovation for Women Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

Yes, I wish to apply for this prize

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Explain how you are qualified for this prize. How will your team use the Innovation for Women Prize to advance your solution?


Nest has long advocated for formalizing homework to embrace inclusive work structures for women. 2021 brings an unprecedented opportunity to scale our approach with a global shift towards working from home during the pandemic. Nest’s model is the first of its kind, globally applicable across geographies, and successful in making homework a safe and viable option. It stands apart for its cultural sensitivity and nuanced approach to addressing the complexities of informal work and digital access and technology needs for makers to succeed. 

Funding would allow Nest to build on our important work with women makers and bring our successful programming model to more handworker communities around the country.

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The AI for Humanity Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

Yes, I wish to apply for this prize

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Explain how you are qualified for this prize. How will your team use The AI for Humanity Prize to advance your solution?

Nest's own Worker Wellbeing Survey is an innovative survey tool that collects socio-demographic data about artisans and handworkers in informal supply chains and monitors changes in their wellbeing to measure program impact over time. The survey is implemented during Nest’s first visit (in-person or virtual) to an artisan business and repeated at every subsequent visit. While the questions are asked orally of participants in a conversational tone, the answers are input digitally into a tablet. The data collected from this instrument provides insight into the multiple dimensions of worker agency. The underlying expectation is that with Nest’s programming, workers will benefit from greater opportunity within the workplace that will increase self-efficacy and positively impact their perspectives toward their work.

Funding would allow Nest to build upon our important work with the Worker Wellbeing tool and bring our successful data-collection model to the many maker communities across the United States and worldwide. 


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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The GSR Prize? If you select Yes, explain how you are qualified for the prize in the additional question that appears.

No, I do not wish to be considered for this prize, even if the prize funder is specifically interested in my solution

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Solution Team

 
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