On working for free

My Tweet which inspired this piece

What is going on?

To the extent this is a ‘thing’, why is it? I have observed a few trends:

  1. This may be a function in part of how digital communication technologies have made it easy it is to make such requests, receive contributions, and engage people.
  2. I sense it is also a function of a diminished connection between work and income, which mirrors our society’s broader disconnection of wealth from industry. (This has likely been exacerbated by the huge fruits of the Magic Money Tree state has distributed in furlough and other payments to locked down workers and businesses.)
  3. There is a sense abroad that everything is in some way subsidised by something else: charities are funded by donations; not-for-profits are funded by grants; government agencies are funded by the Treasury (well, us, really); and social enterprises are funded by, er, goodwill. Nothing is paid for at the point of consumption, a bit like the National Health Service.
  4. There appears to have been a huge increase in voluntarism, with people volunteering their time and skills informally and to organisations — from local clean-ups to National Trust to Covid testing centres — in part I suspect as a way of creating meaning they don’t get from increasingly bureaucratised work and, more prosaically, as a way of socialising and meeting people.
  5. I sense there are many people who either have some independent funding — not just those young people doing internships supported by Dad and/or Mum — or who have significant ‘free’ unremunerated time — due to under-earning? — or, and this would be the best case, do this work on top of full-time employment.
  6. It also seems to be a function of a kind of purposelessness in organisations whose priorities are increasingly divorced from their ostensible purpose and whose deliverables are no longer societally measured. As such, they go through the motions of doing useful work which leads them to wastefully engage others.

What is the consequence?

Those may be trends and reasons explaining this ‘thing’. Either way, people clearly do agree to work for free.

Video and Audio

[To come]

Related

This relates to my 2017 Facebook post On self-employment and getting paid on the challenge for independents getting paid by large organisations.

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Educator, facilitator and consultant on innovation and creativity. Tutor @CIEELondon @LSBU_ACI / External Examiner @CSM_news. BIG POTATOES manifesto co-author

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Nico Macdonald

Nico Macdonald

Educator, facilitator and consultant on innovation and creativity. Tutor @CIEELondon @LSBU_ACI / External Examiner @CSM_news. BIG POTATOES manifesto co-author