Agency

Posted by Kirsten Gibbs on April 27, 2020
  • On Saturday, I found a really good definition of ‘Agency’:

    “People are ‘conscious, reflecting initiators of acts in a structured, meaningful world.’  They are not simply programmed to follow scripts defined by roles; they instigate actions, often with considerable intelligence, creativity and improvisation.”*

    We see this all the time outside work.   People restore whole canals, railways, buildings.  They run clubs for all sorts of activities.  They learn difficult skills as a hobby.  They volunteer to do boring or ridiculous, dangerous things for charities.    Even more so during a crisis, as now.

    It seems that people can’t help themselves.  Given the smallest chance, they spontaneously create value, as long as they feel they have a ‘structured, meaningful world’ to do it in.

    Of course a workplace can be a ‘structured, meaningful world’, in which people can behave as ‘conscious, reflecting initiators of acts’, but far too often, it isn’t.

    Why is that?

    *Erik Olin Wright, quoting Goran Therborn.

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