LOTE1 Making A Living Session: On making a living and social networks

So i’ve been going through all the fabulous material produced by Cataspanglish on how people who are doing interesting work are making a living outside the mainstream. He has done video interviews with a number of people who in some way or another are exploring new spaces or potentially opening new avenues for others in different domains. It is by no means an exhaustive research initiative, more a curated collection. What follows are my personal reflections around for me core points. Work: exploration, investment, production

"I do think that as a society and employers need to think a lot harder about training though. A lot of companies seem to have stopped doing this, which is a mistake on their part, but it's one of those short term cost, long term gain things - and of course, companys that do, run the risk of training people who then get poached by company's that don't. Tax breaks for education may be one way to address that " - Jacky

It seems that several people have done, or are doing, a combination of temporary and or freelance work to pay the bills, and creative exploration of their environment or particular obsessions such as getting a creative venture (such as a start-up), running. Many report that it was actually their general meanderings off the `straight and narrow´ (creative experimentation without set agendas, side projects for “fun”, hobbies and or volunteering as opposed to say pursuing a degree program) that lead to their generating income or initatives that generated work and or social value for their communities. How have they been doing it more precisely? Here is a starting list- feel free to add more!

  1. Chase Buzz terms: Try new technologies out and become proficient at using them
  2. Experiment with different forms of self-expression to tell stories about who you are and the worlds you live in till you find your style that resonates with more people- especially writing. Pick something which you can do consistently over a long period of time so people can find you and you can develop an audience.
  3. Be open and social: make it easy for others who might be interested in what you do to find and engage with you. Pete did it by telling people where he would be on a regular basis and inviting people to come meet him there to talk about social media, offering to help newbies get started, or those curious to explore it a bit without a major commitment.

The terms “freelance” and “temporary” seem to imply something about the duration and conditions of the work which at first look are obvious. But when I asked myself more detailed questions I realised they are ambiguous; I am unsure whether in each case people were referring to cash-in-hand, short term or medium-term or something else. I am also not clear on whether the work required specialised skills only gained through years of practicing a craft…or copy-pasting data into excel documents. If my own experience is anything to go by, you need, are able to and want to do different kinds of things depending on the situation and what you are trying to achieve.

“the whole process of recruitment - CV based in a linear way, even on something like LinkedIN, which bears no relation to how a growing number people earn their living"

So how are connections between work and people being made and how much can we influence this- as individuals, as groups, as societies? Several Edgeryders have mentioned the importance of their personal networks in helping them to find work. It´s not just the number of connections though, is it? I personally have a large personal network. The shape of the network is such that there are a lot of people in it that I could turn to to be put in touch with venture capital or to get credible data and deep insights on telecommunications infrastructure, and game design- you get the idea. Finding temporary work for a couple of weeks cleaning fish in Norway to earn a quick injection of cash for expensive equipment I need for an installation? Not so much.

So how would I find the work I need or make it easy for people looking for someone to do that kind of work to find me? One topic I think we need to explore in much more detail is networks, what they are how they seem to be composed and how we can make them better or more useful for sustaining us. As individuals, as groups and communities. If by work we mean income generation, some Edgeryders are trying to do this by generating revenue directly from their work such as by selling services and in some cases products. Here are some insights gleaned from the posts on Edgeryders- please feel free to add your own:

  1. Selling your own work is more difficult than working for others
  2. Switch to offering services or products more suited to smaller wallets
  3. Get your objects into selections made by others
  4. Set up your own e-commerce with easy to use, personalisable applications such as Blomming
  5. Produce remix-friendly designs as possible alternative path of revenue..
  6. Produce designs for 3-d printing or laser cutting to be sold online e.g. through shapeways.

Many more it seems have tired their hand at formalised recruitment processes through job centres and online applications… Matching work and people

"..hiring is hard, finding a job is hard, and that both are extremely time consuming if you approach them properly. Also there's a lot of specific instances that people are generalising rather badly from. For example a lot of jobs really are highly specialised, and require very real skills. Would we want people to hire brain surgeons or nuclear power station engineers by thinking "creatively about their candidate potential"? I rather suspect not. " " I can't find the statistics right now but if you look at the most efficient ways to get an highly qualified job, either in Italy or abroad, you can just forget the CVs as a first-contact method. What really works is networking. "

Formalised recruitment processes, it seems, leave much to be desired for many reasons. While they may or may not work, the impression I get from several of the discussions both on and off Edgeryders is they are ill suited for many different kinds of work and professional profiles. On the candidates side they can be quite a humiliating experience or a frustrating one that leaves a lasting bad impression of the people and organisations doing the recruiting. Too much focus on formal requirements (e.g. a degree) or traditional organizational arrangements (e.g. they don’t trust long-distance work) can automatically block promising candidates due to their not being picked up in a database search etc.

Ok the above image refers to designers but really I think the bottom left square illustrates a situation I come across through the descriptions of Edgeryders and my own experiences from both sides of the coin. When looking for work and or for people to do it we often don´t know what we’re really looking for. What we have done in the past does not necessarily reflect where we want to go in the future; future by definition is sort of fuzzy. Especially if we are pushing boundaries or exploring the possibilities enabled by new technologies.

" I have had the chance to write the job description and the ideal candidate description for some positions. Never once have I required experience: it did not feel realistic, maybe the stuff I do is just too weird and the whole point is that there is no experience to go around, because it is supposed to be, you know, new. So I am really not the one to ask. "

If you are recruiting someone for a long-ish term position it´s a huge investment and more often than not, we may percieve that can not afford to take risks or trust people to do a good job. So a formal process would force us to be superficially specific without allowing for us to be surprised and discover people, approaches and competences that can generate a lot of added value to us, but that we didn’t know we needed or would have known how to ask for! I´ll take my own example.

At a certain point in my working life I ended up working as a cook in restaurants. I only did it for a while, and didn’t have any professional training- but I did get it through a job centre. Turns out the job itself was over hyped- all it really required was that you show up, peel a lot of vegetables, heat and serve pre-processesed foods and clean up meticulously after each working day.

The job description made it out to be a highly demanding job requiring specialist skills but it really wasn’t, they could just have said: We’re looking for person to mostly prepare pre-processed foods and a couple of salads every now and then. You need to be clean, have high work ethic and be willing to do repetitive tasks but on the upside the money’s not bad. There is no way from the description I could have guessed what it was about, and if they had asked about qualifications I would have been filtered out as a candidate even though the job certainly didn’t require it.

I am very grateful I got the chance to do the job though, as it lead to other work with food where I discovered a personal passion for working with food. It was many years ago since I had any real experience from being in a kitchen…and then it was only for a short while. But it has never left me- something I would love to do is run a mobile food truck service. I am going to need to start earning some extra money to pay for the costs of:

  1. Getting a driver´s license
  2. Doing some kind of formal food-related certification course- not sure what you need yet
  3. Setting up the food truck, and buying ingredients.

Long term is off- I would much prefer well-paid short term work . So I am asking myself what cash in hand or short term work is out there? Babysitting, gardening, selling stuff on the beach. There never seem to be enough plumbers and electricians around. Especially at odd hours. And Estheticians/ hair dressers they often seem to be booked days or even weeks in advance.

Any more? I am quite open to proposals barring prostitution or working for tobacco/arms industry. What kinds of odd jobs have you done in the past and how did you get them? Cash in hand, Short term, medium term, long term work- Highly specialised or skilled vs generic, specific vs fuzzy descriptions. How to find it as individual, as group as community- can we use our networks in some smart ways to do this?

Networking Rules when Making a Living

Good point about CVs - there are too many of them out there, and employers figured out a long time ago that a good CV/cover letter writer is not necessarily a great candidate to hire.

With a lot of experience in a field CV is a good sidedish. For one who have been studying, working in bars and walking dogs, then it sending hundreds of CV’s doesn’t work: employers receive thousands of them.

What is the better way to sort yourself out? Start your own organisation? Try to get an internship? Volunteer?

Is the problem is trust and communication between employers and education providers/trainers?

Social Capital seems to be one key

I think one of the challenges of this topic is a sense of access to work just “happening” or not and network as something you “have” . With little understanding of how they work or how we can influence them as individuals and groups or communities.P2p. One of the initatives I feel is intersting in this respect is Nrich: http://edgeryders.ppa.coe.int/spotlight-social-innovation/mission_case/nrich-giving-early-school-leavers-second-chance

I wonder if there are more initatives that follow a similar line of reasoning or approach…know of any?

I remembered a conversation I had with Bert-Ola Bergstrand about social networks in which he mentioned social capital. After your comment I got back in touch with himk to ask him for pointers to research exploring this, that might give us some good input for the extrapolation to policy

one link with a general overview on the state of Social Capital research is: http://www.socialcapitalresearch.com/

Another list of articles more specificlly exploring Social Capital and the labour market are: Social capital and the labour market | socialcapitalgateway.org

I would like to know what others think should be in the breakout session so that we leave there with results that are useful to all of us?

Social Capital

Had a conversation with Bert-Ola on social capital too. He seems well-connected on this. Perhaps a short live online video conversation/QnA from participants might help? He brought the SOCAP conference to Sweden, in Malmo last month 2012 (SOCAP 2012: http://designingthefuturemalmo.socialcapitalmarkets.net/)



in sweden

Questions to explore in more detail at lote?

Hi Jovin,

where are you currently based? do you recognise any of my rant above on situations you see around you and if so what might questions worth exploring further at Lote on this topic be?

is it someth like this?

Why: Making a Living

What: Social Innovation 4 Soc Capital

How: SocEnt + Non-Profit X Policy Making

Suggestions for “Whats” and “Hows” ?

social capital at the moment seems to be the safest currency

Thanks for catching on Social Capital subject.

There is a lot of theory written about types of capital, and whether one can be converted into the other and how.

To make a long story short:

Increased mobility:

Because of the increasing mobility

social capital has become the most needed.


The interconnected world might seem to be an easier place to obtain your social capital, but I find it much more challenging to generate valuable soc capital.


Cultural capital is at risk to become obsolete before you graduate or shortly after. My own formal first education did.

This what I have pressed from the boring theory I had to read, a bit if observation and the life of a multiple expat

to nadia and k


i like your style of posting.

simple, one-liner, easy to read, sort of BBC article format.

this can be a standard to adopt. for fast reading.

yeps, a currency now.

we’ll definitely need to get this in the vocabulary of the speakers in the 1st 2 days.


i’ll not call it ranting. this is good stuff you are sharing.

as a start, i’ll get get ‘making a living’ participants to watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7cuatm_bqw&feature=player_embedded#!

this may be a background, and also, a generator of questions you asked for. some worth exploring would be around preparing our surfboard now to ride on the multiple waves that will hit us. in malmo socap for e.g. the president of buckminster fuller institute gave a fantastic presentation on how systems thinking with all these moving parts has to be part and parcel of the decision maker (ie us).



based in sweden


I like your posts: no scroll-down rule.

Is a good idea to pass on some Socap DTF drawn content.

I would suggest pinging them

We need  your help in getting the rest of the team in on this. Maybe as facilitator you could post the video with question and point of entry into the session on the walls of those of us who have signed up as this session? With 9 days to go now is realluy the time to get the team active on designing this session so we are not starting from scratch on the 15th…any ideas?

noted. we had a long discussion last evening on this. a short update will come duly. thanks for the reminder.

in sweden