Livelihood means…

There is a lively conversation to be had as to what a livelihood (making a living) means. Some of the themes in the discussion are: –

  1. Multiple sources of income – we can expect to draw our income from several sources, especially when we are first firing up a start-up – some part-time working for another operation (and maybe quite basic work – it is common for us to be competent laborers[1]). Up to 5 streams of income can work although less (3?) is more manageable.
  2. Running lean – minimising outgoings, especially monthly payments is very helpful – see Buen Vivir later in the course for more on this topic.
  3. Resilience – having buffer stocks of essentials as back-ups for when contingencies happen (cash, food in the garden, bike as a transport option, babysitters and so on) – this topic also covered in more detail later.
  4. Transitions – making sense of life’s changes – taking the self-employed, enterprise route after, say, a period of employment is a significant transition and many feelings (some difficult) are likely to surface – having a support network on board when transitioning can ease the challenges.
  5. Income solidarity – consider making a living at the level of the median income in your country or region (check this now by searching online or click this link!). Gaia U does this and we have an income policy to this effect.  If this median is less than you think you need, consider taking the challenge to learn to live well on a level of income that is within reach of most people. If your business does better than this, consider hiring more people rather than taking more out yourself.
  6. Life/work balance – one feature of a self-employed and self-directed livelihood is that our work and non-work elements of life can integrate seamlessly – the boundaries between being at work and not being at work melt away – this is both a powerful liberation and a danger (we could wind up working all the time and never resting or going out to play). Consider limiting working for a living to 35 hours a week so that you have time for parenting, gardening, cooking and such like.
  7. Life-cycle of our movements – in the permaculture world (the one we inhabit at least) we are (45 years on) at an early stage of development as a movement. There are certainly people who make livings at permaculture work (we don’t know how many and we don’t know what level of living they are making) and there are some rare enterprises (and a few non-profits) that can provide ‘jobs’ (Gaia U is one of these enterprises and we employ the equivalent of 6 full time people year round). The image below helps us see where we are and, therefore, invites us to develop appropriate strategies going forward.

Click to visit the Adizes Business School, generator of this useful organizational lifecycle model for more information

There will be all manner of opinion about this but, from the Gaia U perspective, our collective movements are around the adolescent stage and seeking to get to prime. There have already been some divorces and ‘drifting-aparts’ and, as yet, not many people are seeking reconciliations. At least some of these reconciliations are required if we want to get to prime.

What this mean is that all of us (including you) need to have a high level of capacity to take care of ourselves and not expect other people to create ‘jobs’ for us, come with an energetic willingness to bring resources into the movements and be clear with an understanding that we are all creating our new ecosocial economy, if not exactly from scratch, then certainly from close to the beginnings.

That’s a big job. Your contributions can make a big difference.

[1] Being a competent laborer – many of us might consider laboring as an unworthy occupation and even imagine it to be unskilled such that only minor application of intelligence is required to be good at it. However, working with a smart laborer is a treat whilst working with one who does not think or have the appropriate skills can be dangerous and taxing. Each of us would do well to develop good laboring skills and we’d note that if our socioeconomic systems celebrated good laboring (and stopped seeking to automate it out of existence) many a good living could be had in this role.