NonBelonging and NewBelonging: Rewriting the rules in a spirit of adventure

A most interesting angle on Belonging from Andy Swann, the plucky fellow who has set himself up as I am The Work Project.

This is the challenge he has set: “Can I go a year working outside the usual structures of work and  still make a living?

Is this, essentially, NonBelonging?

Here’s what he says so far:

“The Work Experiment involves a few different elements. To fully question what work is conceptually and emotionally, the structures we put around it, the mechanisms it perpetuates in our lives, how it continues to evolve and how it could perhaps be changed for the better, I need to change my relationship with work.

As of today, I’m not employed. I have nothing lined up but an open mind. I have enough money in the bank to last around one month. I’m very comfortable asking for what I need, so I’m equally comfortable being asked. I’m now working solely within the parameters of the work project.”

And here are his guidelines:

“I won’t charge a pre-determined rate or fee for my work.

For any work I do, all I’ll ask is that the value I create is recognised.

Recognition doesn’t have to be purely financial (although it will need to be sometimes), it can be in value – products, services… anything.

I’ll work anywhere, consider any offer, but reserve the right to say no.

I’m open to going anywhere in the world and will listen to any offer or idea. The aim of the experiment is to see whether this unstructured approach to work is sustainable and personally more fulfilling.”

Not content with that Andy found himself twiddling his thumbs and noticing that his Twitter followership was still only around 500 despite pretty decent networking.

So he put out a message to appeal to his next 100 Twitter followers, promising something good.

Here’s what he says happens: “Within minutes I’d amassed well over the 100 followers I needed for the project and was hit by a wave on enthusiasm, constructive comment, sharing and interest. I was pretty taken aback and I now had a responsibility to deal with it all!”

Having identified the first 100 followers he sent an introductory tweet asking “How can I support you?”

And within 72 hours Andy had etablished #100connections, a bubbling community of talent and goodwill, exchanging ideas and support between each other – the Twitter equivalent of the barn-raising scene in Witness, the whole village pulling together to build a barn in a day.

He’s gathered more support for this community from his discussions at the Culturevist event this week, with a like-minded bunch who put culture before the tasks of an organisation.

What a great paradox. Someone who appears consciously to be NonBelonging, is working to several of our core principles of Belonging:

Purpose (test whether he can go a year outside the usual structures of work and still make a living)
Ethos (fairness, hardwork, openness, spirit of adventure)
Community (offering support)
Camaraderie (easy exchange, wanting success for each other in the team)
Appreciation (recognising value, openly acknowledging help)

I’m intrigued. What does he belong to? Himself, or everything, or nothing?

So I’ll be catching up with Andy later this month to find out what Belonging means to him and how his experience relates to our research – watch this BelongingSpace for an update.

Wishing Andy every success with his adventure. What a refreshing inspiration for a Friday.

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And you can offer Andy work (within his parameters) at