What is Care Work?
"Care work in an organization? I don’t know anything about/have never done/don’t like/really hate that. What is it, anyway..."
- 1 Introduction: "Care", "Admin", "Organizational" or "Non-translation" work
- 2 Let's talk about Reproductive Work
- 3 How to care for the health of the collective
- 4 "So, where are those paid translations??"
Introduction: "Care", "Admin", "Organizational" or "Non-translation" work
OK, it’s time to have a heart-to-heart talk about "Care work". What is it? Well, it hasn’t been easy to describe without looking very closely at the work we’ve done during GT's “startup” phase, but we think we have it worked out now, and we hope that this section helps clarify things for you.
One mistake we made early on was getting into the habit of using the word “admin” to describe everything that wasn’t translation work. This is totally misleading, so now it’s time to break out of that habit.
Let's talk about Reproductive Work
Translations, editing, blog posting… this is what is generally known as productive work. As these tasks are mostly word-based, they are easy to quantify and assign credits for. But what about everything that leads directly or indirectly to paid work: Searching for clients, project management, quality control, relationship and trust building, etc.? All the invisible work that goes into holding the relationship together? This is reproductive work, or carework.
Carework covers two types of care:
- Care work for the health of the collective: This is where the collective is seen as a living entity/system (embodied by Lucas 9000). Caring for its health implies doing the necessary admin and productive work for it to be thriving,
- Care work for the living beings within the collective: These are the Guerrilla Translators, and we mutually care for and support each other.
Caring for the health of the collective
To maintain a healthy collective, we have to make sure that our collective agreements are maintained and cared for. All members are expected to keep our communication rhythms and also distribute the work necessary to make the collective thrive. This is fleshed out in the sections below, but it includes coop and business development, seeking and attending to clients, making sure our financials are up to date and that everything is paid, maintaining active relationships with authors, publishers, following through on our commitments… everything that you’d expect from a traditional agency or co-op.
The difference in GT/GMC is that we don't outsource this type to work to a management/coordinating class with privileged access to higher salaries, knowledge and decision making .
Within the collective all full members are paid at the same rate, have easy access to the same knowledge (and are trained in how to make use of it) and participate in all decisions. Another difference with a traditional company is that there are no set roles held of specialised managers. Instead we have working circles, where all care work items are modular, easily visualized and can be picked up by any member of the collective.
Caring for the health of the members of the collective
The collective seeks to build trust and intimacy among all members, and our cooperative practices should never be solely dependent on technology or protocols such as this model. These are only tools to facilitate and strengthen our collaborative culture. We believe that cooperative cohesion is primarily based on healthy, consent-based heterarchical relationships, and to foster these, we have committed to certain regular practices. Among these we can highlight:
- Mentoring: In the case of Guerrilla Translation, more experienced translators mentor new translators in the productive activities of the collective. Beyond the Open Coop's chosen craft, all members mentor each other in cooperative culture and, specifically, the tools and practices of the Open Coop in question. Mentoring is always bi-directional, peer to peer, and available to any committed member. The outputs of the mentoring process are recorded as part of our knowledge commons and openly shared through resources such as our handbook or this wiki. While mentoring is an ongoing process, special attention is paid to those members going through the Dating Phase. We don't expect everyone to know everything all the time, but Guerrilla Translators are expected to be able to mentor new members and each other in several areas.
- Mutual Support: Looking after people, being attuned to other's moods, needs and larger realities beyond the collective, caring for our wellbeing are all essential factors for creating a healthy work environment. The collective uses a system of mutual stewarding based on Loomio's practices. Every member, whether in the Dating or Fully Committed phase, has a specific person supporting them and every member supports another. Supported members have a safe space to express themselves and to be cared for and heard within the collective (while being reminded of the things things they have committed to, etc.). Conflict resolution is also handled through the mutual support system, ensuring the distribution of personal care work. In GT, "who supports who" is listed here.
For more information about how we track and value carework, read the Carework Value section of our governance model.
How to care for the health of the collective
Realistically, there are several categories of reproductive work impacting the health of the collective. Some will be kind of obvious, but others might be more surprising or unfamiliar, and hopefully more interesting. The advantage in re-describing “the category formerly known as ADMIN” is that now the terms might be more representative. We hope that this will make it easier to figure out what work you’ll choose to do.
The Care Work in Love Work
The easiest to describe, and probably the most obvious, is "translation admin" (much of this is outlined in greater detail in The Tao of the Guerrilla Translator, but we’ve included it here as contrast to other tasks.) In this section we will be speaking about Pro-bono translations and, while this work takes place within the Love Work area and is tallied by words, not hours, it is still a type of care work.
This is the standard set of tasks done before beginning a translation, including:
- contacting the author
- working out details about the author bio
- determining which images will be used in the post including the license for the images
Work done after the translation is complete includes:
- formatting for Wordpress
- choosing social media extracts (creating a social media “matrix”)
- posting and promoting on social media
- publishing the post on the blog
Finally, if the piece seems particularly popular or relevant in a specialized way, we may choose to solicit specific websites that might be interested in republishing the piece, perhaps even for a little revenue.
This is all routine “translation care work”; exceptions happen, but this is the standard routine work we do.
Non-translation care work
Open Co-op development
This has included a lot of investigation and correspondence in the past, but now mainly includes:
- Correspondence and coordination with the organizations that support our co-op functions
- Managing, discussing and modifying our organizational model and structure
- Documenting the living evolution of the collective through the handbook and wiki
- Forging alliances and exploring partnership possibilities with other co-ops and organizations
- Seeking funding for our start-up phase
- Keeping in touch and collaborating with our technical partners
- Seeking advice, mentoring and consulting with selected advisors
as well as promoting both the pro-bono and revenue-generating business, including:
- Maintaining active relationships with authors, publishers, bloggers, others, fostering mutually beneficial bonds (online and offline). Following through with our commitments (this is non-negotiable, as our reputation is in the hands of these people). This includes on time completion pro-bono translations we’ve contacted authors about; if we fail to do so after making contact, that makes it rather difficult to propose larger projects or “ventures”.
- Creating ventures with these individuals and entities, including planning, scheduling, budgeting, team creation, and communication, using our workflow tools and protocols.
- Taking part in online and real-time discussions, presentations, etc., establishing and maintaining our presence in an integral way - that is, not producing promotion or advertising, but rather being involved in other communities in the most natural and relevant ways we can.
We always anticipate the negative voice when we write things like this, so, with the idea that someone may read this and say, “oh sure, like we have all this extra time to go join (x group) and spend time with their asembleas or whatever, just to get more business for GT/GMC”…well, no, that’s not what we’re suggesting at all. We imagine that you’ve joined us for a reason, and that surely with your wide-ranging interests (activism, environmentalism, economic change, feminism, permaculture, political/democratic participation, etc.) you probably take part in some other groups whenever you have the opportunity. There’s a balance to be struck here. We’re committed to getting away from any old-model concept of a “sales pitch” or “sales” department. So clearly, we’re not suggesting that you join all kinds of groups just to get us more work –rather, what we mean is, we’re hoping to build new work on the strength of our real relationships. The heart of this would be to participate meaningfully and create opportunities for long-term projects as well as short-term work, and not just for “us”. So, with the question of balance, this won’t be a “full-time” endeavour for anyone, ever. At the same time it’s important to realize that this relationship-building process won’t be satisfied with only superficial interaction, for instance social media commenting and “likes” or +1s, in the absence of more substantive collaboration. Put simply, adding more Facebook time won’t really cut it, and as with everything we do, it’s not about time spent but about results achieved.
Actually, let us pull back the focus for a second because part of that last point is critically important. We aren't waiting for anything to come to us; we need to actively pursue it, even when we're still in the process of building the machine. It isn't something that any one, or two, or even three of us is going to shoulder long-term. Building the relationships that “pay off” both in support and paying work is not simple but it's the main reason we're going forward with trying to make this a gig we can collect on — because the reputation we've built has come hand-in-hand with a great deal of encouragement and offers of future projects. We can't rest with the few people who have extended that hand to us. There are many more, and we have to pursue them and engage with them.
Seeking work falls to all of us.
Website maintenance and Web Presence
- Ongoing management of our web hosting, domains, any fees, upgrades
- Word Press maintenance
- Maintaining and monitoring our online presence
- Issue exploration and consensus building (via Loomio and other tools)
- Working with the organizational model
- Defining and clarifying responsibilities, roles, and working circles
- Mutual Support
- Project, task and schedule management (Trello)
- Procedure and protocol documentation (Wiki)
- Teambuilding, including working on familiarizing new people with our procedures
Online Tools and Technology
- Maintenance of tools, and supporting tutorial materials
- Working on contributing to the development of our governance model and software
"So, where are those paid translations??"
The paid translation part is what comes as a result of all this, and this should be fairly obvious but the point in our writing this is to outline that whatever anyone thinks is "admin", which they may or may not feel suited for, expert in or, dare we say, interested in, may be surprising in its scope, volume and, not least, effort already expended by some of us. The paid translation part is what comes as a result of all this, which will be shared among us all as a cooperative. No one is asked to do anything we haven’t already done (or are doing) ourselves, or which exceeds any commitments any of you have already made. If you’re ready to increase, or need to modify, your commitment, now’s the time to talk about that. So – that’s work formerly known as admin!
- Extracted from the Wikipedia entry on Participatory Economics (or Parecon): "Some tasks and jobs are more desirable than others; also some are more empowering. Hahnel and Albert argue that empowering jobs, such as accounting or management, provide access to information and skills to formulate ideas and plans for decision making, while other jobs, such as cleaning, do not provide these. Thus workers with disempowering jobs can at best ratify proposals by empowered workers, and have little reason to participate in collective decision making. Workers with empowering jobs are a third class, "coordinator class" that does not own the means of production but has more power than menial workers."