By Design or by Disaster Conference 2021: Workstorming → transformative work for livelihoods

By Design or by Disaster Conference on working on transformation and the transformation of work.
New Date: 23–26 September 2021
Bolzano–Bozen & Upper Vinschgau (South Tirol, Italy)

Call for 7 x 7 short inputs related to transformative work for livelihoods. EXTENDED: 27 July 2021

A great social-ecological transformation towards sustainable, resilient, and solidary modes of living and production is urgently necessary. Both society and politics appear to be accepting of this orientation.  Accordingly,  several study courses have been established that train students to become engaged in transformative work and hence to act as change agents for social-ecological transformations. However, while there is an undeniable societal and ecological need for such work, these developments are not mirrored by parallel realities in the labour market, which presents students and alumni of such programs with considerable challenges, as balancing the wish to contribute to desirable societal change with the need to make a living is not a trivial undertaking. This is not only a problem for the individuals seeking to be engaged in transformative work, but also an obstacle for much needed transformations on a societal level. The difficulty to secure one’s livelihood effectively renders transformative work unattractive or actually unviable to a large number of individuals. 

This brings up the challenge to transform “work” in a more general sense, as most individuals still (have to) spend the majority of their time working – commonly in kinds of labour which mainly consist of work that is either not particularly transformative in the aforementioned sense, or even stands in stark contrast to it. At the same time many do find ways to productively engage in social movements for positive transformations. If this engagement remains limited to their spare time and their time spent in conventional work remains unchanged, the transformative agency of social movements might not bring about the required transformation. On one hand social movements need an economic basis in order to strive in the long run. On the other hand, work and value-creation itself needs to be re-defined, -designed, and -done in order to become transformative.

The currently dominant system seems to invest rather in the continuation of business-as-usual – eventually making it (look) ‘greener’ and (sound) more ‘inclusive’, and not as much into its transformation to truly sustainable, resilient, and solidary futures. 

How then to deal with all this practically?

→ How to establish a demand on the labour market for truly transformative work?

→ How to define and communicate the values which transformative work creates, and how to make sure that these values are recognised?

→ How to create transformation-engaged jobs in the public sector?

→ How to unfold the potential of Public-Commons Partnership and other currently unconventional corporations that foster positive transformations and generate related work?

→ How to develop the potentials at the intersections of social work, transformation-engaged design and social innovation?

→ Which roles can cooperatives and umbrella organisations of cooperatives play?

→ How can unions become a positive agent in the transformation of work, and the creation of transformative work?

→ Which work opportunities and leverage points for transformation do large established structures such as big corporations and institutions offer?

→ How can existing jobs be turned into transformative work?

→ How can care and commoning secure livelihoods, and lead to living and re/producing beyond market and state? Which modes of working and living transformation can be activated that are providing for livelihoods independent of the labour market and of capitalist logics?

→ Which work-arounds and mixed-modes of work and livelihoods  are viable within the given conditions and still transforming them in a positive way? 

→ In which form can and should transformation-engaged practitioners get organised?

→ Which support structures and programs are needed to help transformation-engaged practices to strive, and provide livelihoods to practitioners at the same time?

Which of the questions are most important? Which other questions matter? Please let us know via comments.

We look at all this from the perspective of transformation-engaged designers and related teachers/researchers at a University in the Alps. We invite persons from other fields of work/research and areas of the world to understand better what really can and should be done.

The By Design or by Disaster Conference 2021 is taking place in and around Bozen–Bolzano and in Obervinschgau/Alta Val Venosta (South Tyrol, Italy) with online elements. We plan to have parallel workshops in small groups in beautiful environments, and bigger gatherings and talks online, respectively in hybrid modes. This series of conferences co-develops with the Master in Eco-Social Design at the Faculty of Design and Art of the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano. The conference will be connected to the festival “hier und da – gut leben im ländlichen Raum / il buon vivere nelle zone periferiche” in Obervinschgau / Alta Val Venosta, an idyllic upper valley and a hotspot of eco-social innovation.

Text: Kris >< Krois, with input of Gerald Beck, Munich University of Applied Sciences (B.A. Management of Social Innovations / M.A. Societal Change and Participation), and Andeas Unteidig, HBK Braunschweig (Master in Transformation Design).
Proof-reading: Eric Whyte.
Grafix: Franz Ferrero

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