Contribution to GTI Roundtable "Meaningful Work"
An exchange on the viewpoint The Struggle for Meaningful Work

Adam Blakester

I am especially interested in the interaction of meaningful work and the Great Transition.

There are many philosophical and theoretical models for conceptualizing meaningful work, a few of which are touched on in Kent Klitgaard’s paper. The one which I have currently settled upon is the Japanese “ikigai,” for its ability to weave together the interplay of profession/trade (what one is good at and can earn a living from) with passion/purpose (what one loves and the world needs).

I meet many capable people who are passionate about one or more parts of the Great Transition; however, they more often than not apply their profession/trade to something else entirely to earn their living. All too often, their paid work is not well aligned with what the Great Transition needs at all.

How does this situation affect the meaning they gain from their work?

I commonly find that they are stuck in this situation because they are looking for one job—and mostly as an employee—with benefits and a solid salary. High cash flow requirements from their desired standard of living and high levels of debt can tip the scales toward this low-risk option. However, this low personal financial risk option places them at odds with their passion and beliefs. This low risk more often than not means low returns for the Great Transition as well.

This leaves us with an important question: How can one generate a livelihood from enabling the Great Transition?

In my experience, this challenges us to be creative in the realm of generating resources and income more than earning them. Self-employment, entrepreneurialism, freelance and contract work, portfolio careers, fundraising, philanthropy, and more are all possible pathways. My own livelihood arises from a rather unpredictable blend of them all.

Klitgaard touches on craft in a more traditional frame; however, I think we need to broaden this frame to also envision the craft of socio-cultural-system change. These agents for change are artisans too, applying scientific and technical tools and knowledge with the beauty and inspiration of a painter's brush.

And in the way that great artists earn a rather unpredictable living largely from things that are esoteric and intangible, so, too, do we need facilitators and enablers of the Great Transition to create ways to earn a living for what is more often than not equally esoteric and intangible.

Adam Blakester
Adam Blakester is the Executive Director and co-founder of Starfish Initiatives, a charity that promotes regional sustainability in Australia.

Cite as Adam Blakester, contribution to GTI Roundtable "Meaningful Work," Great Transition Initiative (February 2017),

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