Letter of Invitation

The Commons
8, rue Joseph Bara
75006 Paris, France

Wednesday, 6 September 2000

Dear Colleague,

This is to welcome you to @New Work on the Web, the dedicated virtual Forum and Discussion group which has been established under The Commons in support of our Rethinking Work program. No matter what you may read in your favorite financial or business journal, these are immensely unsettling times in the world of work and it is important that those of us who have ideas and concerns about the present policy paths and their huge, egregious... omissions and oversights find ways to get together to develop an alternative agenda for work in the 21st century..

The cooperative work program that is set out here is based on several strong underlying premises. One is that the overall problem of work in our time goes far beyond the usual unemployment statistics, certainly a full order of magnitude beyond the kinds of numbers which are usually bandied around in this respect. This makes for a strange and quite uncomfortable situation. And further extending our uncomfort zone, we can see that, one way or another, the future of work is going to turn out to be 100% totally unrecognizable to those who insist on looking at it from fixed past perspectives. Our predicament is that this future is already well on us -- while those responsible for making the decisions that shape the structure of work for most of us simply have not got the message.

Against this troubled background, the goal of this unofficial, wide open, international, cooperative exercise, is to see what we can do to develop international support for better understanding of the issues and for more aggressive, better supported, better communicated experimentation in the search for the new solutions that are needed.

The Internet provides us with a valuable tool to these ends -- and though we are well aware that there are as yet few examples around of successful applications of the technology to the kinds of policy ends which are being targeted here, we nonetheless feel that this is something that is well worth trying and very much hope that you will agree. There is in fact some grounds for guarded optimism, including some of the modest successes that we have had in several others of rather similar international cooperative programs that have been organized under The Commons over the last several years. You may wish to have a look at the accomplishments of the collaborative groups working under such programs as World Car Free Days, the International CarShare Consortium, the Journal of World Transport Policy and Practice, and most recently our cooperation with the City of Bogota which led to the 2000 Stockholm Prize for the Environment. You can of course check through these directly from here in order to form your own opinions on this.

For further background on this effort you are cordially invited to go to explore these pages and from there make up your mind for yourself. As you will see, we propose this as an international team project, and like much of the "New Work" that we now need to define and put in place it is destined to take place at least in part "off the economy". The old lines between paid work, education, leisure and neighborliness are blurring. And that is certainly very good, and indeed it is in good part due to the powerful tools of technology and organization that are at our disposal -- but which we have yet to understand fully and put to work. But that again is what this is all about.

We need your ideas and criticism, and your proposals for all kinds of collaboration, interaction and exchange, and look forward to hearing from you and to sharing them with the hundreds of people and groups around the world who are being brought together in part through these means. We know that there is a lot of good work that is going on, and a significant part of the challenge is to get this message out to as many people and places as we can.

If that sounds about right to you, this is to invite you to get in touch.


Eric Britton

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Updated 6 September 2000