I am the Work Project.

The way for me to better understand ‘work’ as a concept, is to live an experiment.

I’m going all in on an idea that I just can’t escape.

I’m so taken with it that I’m prepared to put not just my own, but my family’s livelihood on the line.

I love work. The idea of it, the structure of it, what we call work, how we do it, where we do it and with whom. I love seeing where it came from, how the workplace has developed and theorising on where it’s going.

I haven’t always loved working though. In certain circumstances, I’ve truly hated it.

I’m an idealist — I want to try and change the way we work, or at least play a part in the conversation on work past, present and future. The structures of society affect me; they make me want to experiment and see how (and why) things might evolve.

I also like an adventure and thrive a little on uncertainty.

Because of this, I want to find a new way to work and use it as a way to explore the concept of work, while creating useful outputs, not just for myself.

Recently, I coined the idea of Un-Sponsorship as a means of making a programme of work possible for All About People. Partly inspired by Amanda Palmer’s TED talk and partly inspired by conversations on sustainability, transactions, as well as my own reflections on what I actually want to and can do, just after this idea started to brew, I started reading Free! Love Your Work, Love Your Life by Chris Barez-Brown. I now can’t escape the idea that I need to go all in on this and take it to the extreme – unleash myself and my work in new ways.

Here’s my take on the status quo…

Some of the people and organisations I love working with value what I do but can’t afford to pay me, others have abundant budgets. Through similar work, I can create different levels of impact in different situations.

So why charge a set rate for my time?

What I really need to achieve is the ability to keep my family and myself, while having a licence to do work that I love doing – and I know makes an impact. I also want to experience more working environments across the world.

I’m open to projects, placements, contracts, exchanges – I’ll consider anything, but I’m not going to charge a pre-set fee, rate or salary. There are things I need in life (and admitedly some I want), I also need some actual money. My task is to cover that through the work I do. It’s really no different to anyone else’s daily task, just structured differently!

I’d like to say I’m creating un-work, but I’m not. This idea isn’t so novel. In truth, I’m just going back in time and taking the modern structure out of my work. I do need a set of parameters though and here they are:

  • I’ll choose who to work with and what projects to take on.
  • I won’t charge a pre-determined fee for my work.
  • All I’ll ask is that the value I create is recognised.
  • Recognition doesn’t have to be purely financial (it will need to be sometimes), it can be in value – products, services, support, other things I can’t think of right now.

Put simply, it’s a true two-way trade that creates value and efficiency for everyone involved. A less transactional, more human way of working. I’ll work, you pay me what you think I’m worth, based on the impact my work has created.

It’s possible this will work. But, with the approach comes a new set of questions…

  • When I work with a large or corporate organisations, will their supplier approval systems or finance procedures be able to cope with this less structured approach?
  • Will I be able to make enough purely in financial terms to make a living (I have four children!)?
  • How can I get enough traction on this idea to actually make it worthwhile for myself and create outputs that offer valuable insights.

This will change the relationship dynamics between me and the people I work with and around, my definition of work, the idea of a ‘job’ and a vocation, place, purpose – my own ability to survive. All of this will help me understand the dynamics of work and the structures we have put around it as a society and, importantly, how we might change it for the better in the future.

My crucial weapon is a faith in three key things:

  • People and their honesty/ appreciation.
  • My ability to do exciting things of real value.
  • Doing this has a purpose.

I also believe, to some extent, in Karma. More specifically, that if I do enough good things, I’ll make good things happen for me (I can put logical reasoning to this, Karma is just a nicer word).

So, I’m setting out to do it. As of now.

I am the work experiment.

In terms of what I can offer, my skills are:

  • Creativity, innovation, ideas
  • Events, facilitation (especially on the above!)
  • Progressive approaches to Recruitment and HR
  • The entire MAT service list
  • Writing, speaking, research
  • Work and workplace theory
  • People, engagement and general unbridled enthusiasm

But who knows – I might find that there are other ways I’m best utilised. That’s part of the ride.

I realise I’m privileged to be able to do this – not everyone can, but equally many would but choose not to. As it stands, I have enough money banked to keep me for just over a month. I need to act fast… and I could use your help in spreading the word.

But that’s what I love about this. It’s not about sales and bravado, it’s about me being human and holding out my hat, asking for your help – with plenty to give in return. I want to work, what can I do for you?

If you don’t like the results… you don’t have to pay!

The work experiment begins. Let’s see where it goes.

iamtheworkproject.com

By Andy Swann on September 3, 2014.
Exported from Medium on July 15, 2016.