Alla Guelber knew after she completed her undergraduate degree in applied communications that a traditional PR career was not in the cards for her. But she didn’t know where or how to find the kind of meaningful work she was looking for.
What she did know was that she was passionate about the growing movement of the emerging “green” economy. While studying a master of arts degree in environmental education and communication, Alla saw many opportunities for employment in the environmental sector, but many of these jobs consisted of merely accounting for gaps in current systems as opposed to being truly innovative.
Alla opted to merge her interests into a master’s thesis called The Quest for Meaningful Work: Personal Journeys in Creating Occupations for People and the Planet. She has since expanded her inquiry into a grassroots initiative called the Meaningful Work Project (MWP).
“Meaningful work is a universal human desire,” she says. “I wanted to expand the definition of meaningful work so that it’s not only about that personal satisfaction and that sense of being of service to others but also being of service to the planet.”
MWP is a new imagineCALGARY partner. In its early stages, the MWP team is still figuring out what form the initiative will take. One of its most successful aspects to date has been an intimate, multidisciplinary retreat that brings together people on various legs of their own journeys to find meaningful work.
People often feel a sense of relief in the workshops, Alla explains, because they have the opportunity to share with others who are experiencing the trials and tribulations of this challenging transition.
“You’re going through a transition where your world feels upside down and nothing seems to make sense anymore, and you feel like you want meaningful work but you don’t know what that looks like,” she says.
“With the topic of meaningful work, people are reluctant to share what they’re really experiencing. There’s a stigma against people who challenge the status quo,” she adds.
Alla is compiling many of the stories she is encountering of people who are creating new paths to fulfill their personal and “planetary” ambitions. Danielle Carruthers, who completed the workshop in 2010, transitioned from her job in banking to starting a social business incubator called the Sedge. The team is currently spending the year working on incubation in Chile.
“What is it going to take to be able to transition all aspects of our society away from dependence on fossil fuels? It’s going to mean a massive reconfiguration of all that we do and the way we live our lives,” she says.
For more information on the upcoming retreat, Aligning Passion and Purpose for the New Economy running Oct. 25 – 27 in Canmore, AB, visit www.meaningfulworkproject.ca/meaningful-work-retreat-2013/.