Jobs, Livelihoods and Soul Work

Fresh energy stirring around citizen-shaped ways to make — and remake — a living

Images courtesy of COIN

While high-level discussions about solutions to Peterborough’s disturbing unemployment numbers continue, fresh energy is stirring among local citizens around shaping local, meaningful livelihoods.

The ReMaking a Living project just launched by the Community Opportunity and Innovation Network (COIN) of Peterborough is one example of this.

As the Peterborough Dialogues learned in a recent conversation with Natalie Napier and Frances Wilbur of COIN, ReMaking a Living is bringing a radically fresh approach to the issue of joblessness. With a first phase funded by the Atkinson Foundation for Social and Economic Justice and The United Way of Peterborough and District’s Innovation Fund, the project is beginning with an invitation for people who would classify themselves as discouraged workers to share their stories in person.

Another ReMaking a Living set-up offered shoe-cleaning services in exchange for stories.

Project staff Gillian Turnham hosts another Remaking a Living set-up, offering shoe-cleaning services in exchange for stories.

Fun ways to make people aware of the opportunity to share their stories have been created — ranging from a Watermelon Trading Post in rural Keene where people could gain a watermelon in exchange for telling their story to a Sneaker Cleaning Post at Brock Mission having much the same arrangement.

The idea is to first listen closely to the stories of citizens who are discouraged about their work/non-work situations. (COIN has been posting some of the stories of these first experiences on its site).

The next phase will entail shaping rapid prototypes of possible solutions, testing those, reviewing, tweaking, testing again — as opposed to spending six months creating the perfect model and then officially launching. The prototypes will be based on the patterns and energies emerging out of the story collecting experience.

While Natalie and Frances are hesitant to give form to any sort of specific prototype at this point, they do highlight that the outcome may not necessarily be a new enterprise that provides new jobs. There’s a recognition that so often the challenge in moving forward as a discouraged worker is very simply making connections with the right people. So that’s where the initial energy may lie — in creating authentic, easy pathways for people to link in to that part of the community that they need to and would find valuable.

We were thrilled to cross paths with Natalie and Frances and to learn about the ReMaking a Living project as we’re experiencing a related intent and spirit bubbling up through the work of the Peterborough Dialogues.

The ReMaking a Living project team created a watermelon trading post in the Village of Keene in Peterborough County. The post offered watermelons in exchange for stories of work and unemployment in a rural area.

The ReMaking a Living project team created a watermelon trading post in the Village of Keene in Peterborough County. The post offered watermelons in exchange for stories of work and unemployment in a rural area.

As we speak, there’s energy brewing around a group forming for the express purpose of exploring how they might work together to bring their skills, gifts and passions to bear in creating their own local livelihoods. In a rapid iteration of this purpose, a subsequent group is focusing on what it means to do soul work and how opportunities can be created that allow the expression of that soul work in a way that also puts bread on the table.

Things are also shaping up for a community dialogue along the lines of the Peterborough Dialogues Core Conversations, but centred on the new economy and/or local livelihoods to launch in the fall. (Watch for updates on that soon).

Otherwise, we see opportunity for interconnection between the ReMaking a Living and Peterborough Dialogues efforts and anticipate continuing to explore them over the coming weeks.

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