Reimagining work and purpose: what have we heard across England?
Birmingham Impact Hub is blending what it means to live, work, collaborate and dream. It hosts co-working spaces, schools to learn new trades, radical experiments in childcare, support for social entrepreneurs and tea clubs. The common thread is bringing people together to build a better Birmingham and a better world.
Dependable, well-paid, meaningful work continues to disappear and technology is bringing more change — shifting our relationship to work and workplaces, impacting our sense of belonging, affiliation and loyalty. Can civil society help people and be communities be heard and take charge of creating a ‘human’ future for work? Can civil society provide relationships and activity that give other ways of finding purpose?
Work has become increasingly insecure, low paid and with long hours. It’s making life harder for people — and affecting how much they can take part in civil society.
“We’ve lost the main industry that supported the town.” Mansfield community workshop
“You pick your wages up on a Friday. You get told there and then
if you’re working the following week. You can’t plan your life. You can’t get a mortgage.” Shirebrook community workshop
“Only 7% of employees are able to have some time off work to volunteer.” Charities Aid Foundation Contribution
And the nature of work is expected to change more radically than at any time since the industrial revolution. People are concerned about the future but feel like they have little say over what happens.
“I fear robots take over jobs and our purpose is challenged” Bradford youth workshop
“I fear a future where our ability to support cohesion of a society where digital tech / AI create such different relationships across and between communities.” Inquiry Funders Conversation
Civil society has a vital role supporting people to be heard, to experiment and create visions of how the future of work can be more fair, safe and humane. More and more places are supporting people to work differently including co-working, co-living and makerspaces.
There are new organisations forming, unions representing gig economy workers, The Future of Work is Human and the East End Trades Guild.
There are pilots into different models like a Universal Basic Income, Universal Basic Infrastructure and the Enspiral Network founded in New Zealand, driven by a vision to make the world a better place through meaningful work.
And civil society offers ways of finding a purposeful life as both a place of work and beyond work – if it can adapt.
“People want to give their time in different ways to a generation ago
– for example, online, remotely, in micro units, as a one-off,
intensively then not again. Civil society has been poor to respond to this shift.” Nesta Contribution
“In the past decade, there has been a noticeable rise in online campaign initiatives (e.g. 38 Degrees), citizen engagement platforms (e.g. They Work For You; Fix My Street) and grassroots movements organising themselves via online platforms (e.g. Momentum).” 360 Giving Contribution