(Photo credit: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid)
In previous posts, I introduced the notion that historical craft guilds could re-emerge as an innovative organizational structure to harness the talents of independent creatives loosely affiliated with the “maker movement” and beyond. Whereas membership in historical craft guilds comprised mainly of self-employed artisans and craftsmen, a 21st century style guild could also appeal to a broad diversity of “creatives” employed in some other capacity but who seek an independent outlet for creative expression. One only has to visit any of the growing number of urban hackerspaces (particularly after 5pm!) and discover that many members work in day jobs even they acknowledge as generally “non-creative”. Of those who do work in “creative” occupations, many remain under-employed and have difficulty sustaining their individual creative practice over the long term.
Shared Values of Guilds 2.0
A defining characteristic of makers and other creatives who frequent hackerspaces is a strong orientation towards “shared values”. More specifically, these shared values serve to build a sense of community, trust and cohesiveness among hackerspace members. Though I have yet to come across any studies of hackerspace members’ shared values, some general observations include:
- a genuine desire to learn with others
- a strong sense of sharing knowledge, experience and ideas
- a respect and appreciation of both artistic and technical skills
- an openness to newcomers regardless of age, formal education levels, etc.
- an interest towards community outreach
The concept of “shared value”, as described in a January 2011 article in Harvard Business Review, is not a “social responsibility, philanthropy, or even sustainability, but a new way to achieve economic success.” In an age where there are increasing calls for reforming corporate capitalism, novel organizational experiments such as Guilds 2.0 led by entrepreneurs can potentially unleash innovation by tapping into a significantly underutilized pool of creative talent.
Building a Guild 2.0 Organization
For Guilds 2.0 to evolve as a viable form of industrial organization, it must integrate and balance the right incentives for mobilizing both individual and “collective” action. Properly devised, such incentives would motivate individual members to participate in a guild structure knowing that they can take on projects or commissioned works (e.g., public art opportunities) that would be otherwise beyond their personal capacity or specialized skills. In terms of uncovering market opportunities, members may be encouraged to bring prospective projects to the attention of the guild for further refinement and development. As guilds become more successful in delivering quality “works”, guild reputation grows attracting more opportunities as well as other talented creatives.
In terms of legal incorporation, Guilds 2.0 could be pursued as a hybrid for profit corporation with a social impact mission or as an enterprising not-for-profit with corresponding business models.
It is also worth considering the importance of having a “curator-entrepreneur” who could serve as the guild champion. The guild curator would play a vital role in:
- identifying a particular niche for creative endeavour
- attracting creatives to join and/or participate in guild activities
- seeking market opportunities for guild members i.e., “business development”
- managing the guild’s administrative requirements
- harnessing the creative skills of the guild membership for specific project opportunities
- establishing connections and facilitating “self-organization” among guild members
- finding patrons and other means of financing guild activities.
- devising a platform of web-based resources and tools to encourage co-creation, collective and individual training and education
Though a Guild 2.0 organization could have a direct affiliation with a hackerspace or other space(s) with access to digital fabrication and traditional tools, a guild could simply remain unaffiliated while its individual members encouraged to join urban workshops and hacker studios.