A New Paradigm

Public work is a new way of describing the world and its possibilities—one based in democracy’s best and most empowering practices.

For too long, citizens have looked to government agencies, policy experts, or industry innovators to provide the freedom, security, and prosperity that a thriving society requires. It is time for We the People to reassert ownership of our shared spaces and experiences and accept responsibility for their quality and inclusivity.

The Institute for Public Life and Work seeks to reclaim the concepts of “citizenship” and “democracy” and reinvigorate them through a new paradigm – public work. In our individualized and privatized society, public work helps citizens develop a collective, “public” understanding of the problems and possibilities surrounding them, while affirming their responsibility and potential to tackle and grasp them together. 

 

Public work can transform the ways we live and work in every setting, from families and local communities to specific institutions and the broader society.

Image by Gene Gallin

So what does public work make new?

Democracy.png

Democracy is not just about voting for leaders or securing rights and privileges.


Democracy is an empowering way of life created through the collaborative, often messy, never-ending work of We the People.

Democracy is not just about voting for leaders or securing rights and privileges.


Democracy is an empowering way of life created through the collaborative, often messy, never-ending work of We the People.

Support.png

Citizenship is not essentially a legal status, a claim on services, or a form of sacrifice for neighbors or the state.


Citizenship is a relationship built through the shared work of making a common life. Citizens, including children and newcomers, are co-creators of common goods in both everyday and extraordinary contexts.

Citizenship is not essentially a legal status, a claim on services, or a form of sacrifice for neighbors or the state.

Citizenship is a relationship built through the shared work of making a common life. Citizens, including children and newcomers, are co-creators of common goods in both everyday and extraordinary contexts.

Power.png

Power is not only a scarce commodity wielded “over” or “against” or even “for” others.


Power is also generative, expansive, and inclusive. It is the capacity to effect change with others, through collaboration, in public—in settings of reciprocal learning and accountability across differences.

Power is not only a scarce commodity wielded “over” or “against” or even “for” others.


Power is also generative, expansive, and inclusive. It is the capacity to effect change with others, through collaboration, in public—in settings of
reciprocal learning and accountability across differences.

Politics.png

Politics is not just a fight for “who gets what, when, and how,” and it is not owned by politicians alone.


Politics is the everyday work of diverse people negotiating different interests to solve common problems and build a public life worth sharing.

Politics is not just a fight for “who gets what, when, and how,” and it is not owned by politicians alone.


Politics is the everyday work of diverse people negotiating different interests to solve common problems and build a public life worth sharing.

Work.png

Work is not only a way to make ends meet or get ahead in life. Professional are not experts focused on fixing people and problems.

 

Work is any activity that is personally rewarding and publicly meaningful, guided by an inspiring and accountable "enterprise ideal". Professionals are partners, "on tap, not on top," drawing on the experience of fellow citizens to help unlock their talents.

Democracy, citizenship, power, politics, and work—

all are renewed, reconciled, and realized in public work.