"The Future of Work" Heads to St. Paul

On July 21, Connect the Grey and facilitator Katie Boone hosted "The Future of Work: Creativity & Business" in St. Paul. This creative community conversation invited people from across sectors to consider changing job and workplace structures and what skills and mindsets will be needed to meet new challenges.

The St. Paul event was held in at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. Participants' roles include independent consulting, creating employee benefits packages, building financial models, and leading creative projects across sectors. Two participants came from the Future Services Institute at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs, an entrepreneurial division focused on improving human services in Minnesota.

Special thanks to More Belief and graphic recorder Timothy Foss, who creatively captured our conversation in real time!

Click through below to see a few photos from the event:

The context:

  • From The State of Independence in America 2017, report by MBO Partners:
    • Independent sector is now 41 million people strong, representing about 31% of the private U.S. workforce
    • “Strong job markets mean that independents are increasingly able to compete in the War for Talent on their own terms.”
  • Independent work crosses demographic boundaries
  • "For the first time in history, the core logic of our economy states that development should be based on growth and the use of human creative abilities."
  • Workforce development is a multi-sector challenge; currently being discussed by business, government, and healthcare, but focus is on STEM
    • What if we added Arts to STEM to make it STEAM?

Participants were invited to consider: If we were to utilize every human creative ability to support the future of work, what would that look like for people and our planet?

They were then asked to consider, in small groups before sharing out to the full gathering:

  • The changes they're noticing right now in their work and workplaces
  • The future of work they want to create
  • The elegant next steps we can take to create opportunities for the future of work

As the participants talked, key themes emerged:

  • Awareness
  • Responsibility
  • Adaptability
  • Understanding different perspectives
  • Authenticity, and finding a place to bring your full self
  • Importance of finding meaning in your work, even if it wasn't your dream job
  • Tapping into and connecting talent
  • Create system where everyone has the opportunity to add value
  • Teaching how to question and think critically
  • Safety to take risks

And some additional observations and ideas:

  • Giving employees meaningful work and ways to give back helps them be more engaged
  • Encourage people to take initiative to adapt
  • Ideal future is where everyone has a place and their value is recognized
  • Racialized power dynamics play into hierarchical structure and recognition of talent
  • People need and want both flexibility and safety
  • One participant felt forced to choose between her passion and business, then found new passion in business
  • Another participant advocated for herself to make sure a new work environment was one where she could thrive
  • People starting college are preparing for jobs that might not even exist yet
  • Younger generations' intolerance for living life without meaning and balance
  • Is the intersection of creativity and business contributing to current systems, or is it advancing change?
  • Connect systems and frameworks that are already being built
    • Translate across sectors: people speaking different languages
    • Create stories to inform and mobilize (a role for artists)
  • Sense of optimism and sense of urgency: What happens next?

Many participants expressed a desire to not leave the conversation in the room, but to keep it going and make sure we can act on these discussions and ideas. We will be hosting more sessions on the Future of Work in other communities soon.

We will also be talking about one key idea — moving from STEM to STEAM at a local, cross-sector level — in follow-up conversations. Join us for From STEM to STEAM: Building Creativity in Our City in Mankato on September 13 and in St. Paul on September 25.