An RSA project reimagines the medieval guild as a tool for inspiration and innovation
In September 2021, the RSA launched the Good Work Guild to reimagine a modern guild aimed at engaging Future of Work practitioners, advocates and social entrepreneurs working together to shape policies, practices and markets to ensure that everyone can pursue good work in an age of technological change.
Where medieval guilds were associations of craftspeople which forged legal monopolies and pursued policies to protect the traditions of their craft or trade for the various associations, the Good Work Guild drew inspiration from modern guilds as described by Nathan Schneider, FRSA, in his piece ‘The New Guilded Age’, which emphasised guilds as a means to inspire community and social innovation.
The main goal of the Good Work Guild was to convene a diverse global network of more than 200 Fellows to tackle the most pressing issues related to economic security and labour-market transforming technologies by fostering collaboration and shared learning, and by incubating opportunities for collective impact.
Underpinning this work are five principles that set out what good work should look like: it should provide enough economic security for people to be able to participate equally in society; it should not harm people’s wellbeing; it should allow people to grow and develop their capabilities; it should provide people with the freedom to pursue a larger life and, finally, it must positively nurture their identity and sense of self.
With these principles in mind, throughout the past 12 months the Guild met virtually with the RSA Research team to undertake sensemaking of the future of work landscape, and engaged in peer-to-peer learning through case clinics with renowned experts on economic security, worker voice and co-governance of algorithmic systems in the workplace. The Guild also elected to pursue shared advocacy and collective action on a range of themes, including how data-driven technologies can advance good work principles, learning about good work and socialising its values, economic security for a better planet and promoting intergenerational dialogue around the future of work.
By leveraging the diversity and global reach of the Guild, the RSA Research team was able to engage with a wide range of Fellows interested in shifting and rewiring systems in need of change. Simultaneously, the Guild became a powerful vehicle for the RSA’s Fellowship to offer fresh perspectives to key stakeholders on the selected themes and to nurture possible areas of experimentation.
Some of the ideas generated include an open-source diversity, equity and inclusion assessment tool for organisations (especially for small- and medium-size enterprises),redefining economic security to reflect the current planetary emergency, and policy recommendations that promote intergenerational perspectives on good work.
As the work of the Guild draws to a close, the ideas and innovations sparked during its tenure will be showcased at the Good Work Summit, a virtual showcase event hosted by Guild members on 22 September 2022. The summit will spotlight the ideas and perspectives on themes related to technology, skills and training, worker voices and diversity and inclusion.
For more information, please contact [email protected]
Adanna Shallowe is the RSA’s Senior Global Manager responsible for harnessing global insights in the RSA’s research and for the implementation of its global strategy
This article first appeared in the RSA Journal Issue 3 2022
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