The 12th and 13th of June 2019 have seen the first Festival of Work, bringing together two initiatives of the Chartered Institute of Personal Development in one. As one of the old initiatives was more-people oriented, and the other more technology oriented, I have found this move fascinating. Technology can be both a blessing and a curse when it comes to making work better for people, and in a way it assimilates into whatever vision of work we have. Good Works originated from the conversation triggered by the economic crisis about how we can build a system that is fairer, because a group of people believed the centuries-old wisdom of the Catholic Church had a lot to offer and were keen to make it more accessible.
The idea of what constitutes good work has been changing, Different panels have addressed this specific question over the two years with different answers; for Vicky Price of the Centre for Economics, well-paid high skills jobs are good work, and the UK needs more of them. Matthew Taylor of the Royal Society of Arts suggested that we need more long-term thinking in our economy. Paul Novak of the British Trade Union is concerned about how the growth we see in metrics does not translate into the lived experience of workers across the country. These are all concerns that have been at the heart of Catholic Social Teaching from the start, when the machines onto the stage were far from the artificial intelligence we have nowadays.
Away from the main stage, however, the monetary value of work took a backseat to other considerations: plenty of stalls dedicated to mental health and well-being, and talks about bringing your authentic self at work. It provided a more complete picture that good work is meaningful work, and that while pay and a strong skillset are important, they are not all that there is to work. One of the most interesting sessions outside of the main hall was a fringe talk about collaboration, which was based on research that shows how we can be more attuned to what is going on in a workplace, and foster a sense of common mission that empowers individuals to take responsibility for the common goal. It was a microcosm of a society oriented towards the common good.
Sessions varied from the plenaries on the main stage to smaller talks to even smaller workshops about inclusivity, which focused on the menopause, LGBT+ inclusivity and racial diversity. It was a safe space where the principle of plurality really guided the conversations, and they provided great learning opportunities at a time when our society becomes more and more polarised. At risk of sounding like a broken record, it is in these real life situations that the importance of Catholic Social Teachings for Catholics who want to live out their faith becomes really obvious.