The Hybrid Worker

The Hybrid Worker


Jennifer Williams




A 23-year old mother of two lives on a tough Glasgow estate. Last year her youngest child started school and this still young woman once again thought about becoming the musician she knows is inside her. The only music class she could find, though, wanted her to study guitar only. This felt very much like the school she had left at 14. However, through an informal learning programme, this young woman met a musician who had decided, alongside his regular work as a popular Glaswegian musician and DJ, to devote time to helping young aspiring musicians to develop. After an interview, the young mother was deemed to have enough drive and passion to carry her through a nine-month set of open sessions and she was invited to join.


The programme dignified the young mother’s drive while giving the musician an expertise in working with disenfranchised young people. His contact with young musicians’ social and musical development not only improved his own ability to make music, but also fulfilled him in ways that touched him deeply. He has, in short, become a hybrid worker joining a small but growing list of people skilled to understand what inspires young people.


Quietly, alongside the always long and often painful processes to reform our public policies, there is a steady growth of hybrid workers tackling some of the most intractable problems in society today through inventive collaboration with people and communities.


As papers published by ODPM in recent years indicate, we are recognising that problems, whether economic, environmental, educational or social are not separate from one another. But translating this knowledge into practice through our traditional sectors is not at all straightforward with time-honoured specialised methods of delivery overwhelmed by new challenges. Few official programmes are sufficiently in touch with people’s lives to effect lasting change. Nor are they geared up to facilitate alternative forms of practice.


This lack is frustrating for a growing number of people who are using creative processes to confront the complex interests, talents and problems of people and communities directly. Artists are working with hospital patients, theatre practitioners are working with young offenders, police are working with designers on public spaces. On the fringes of all sectors new, often creative hybrid workers are emerging who deal directly with the interdependent realities of contemporary problems. It is not surprising, perhaps, that traditional sectors struggle to keep up.


Hybrid work and its practitioners, characterised by unconventional thinking that leads to unexpected discoveries, have their share of problems. Policy and training structures that feed into health, education, the arts and other public services are usually rigid in structure and slow to change their ways of working. This is certainly true of creative hybrid practice, which can be ignored by arts and social policy funding alike.


Creative hybrid practice is so new that there is debate as to what constitutes quality and success. Should the work be judged on the process or on the product at the end of the process? It is evident from such debate that new evaluation methods are needed to judge the success or failure of hybrid practice. Watch this space.



Source: E-Interchanges no 22


This is an excerpt of the article featured in Children in Scotland magazine – June 2005 issue – by Jennifer Williams, Executive Director of CCC. Jennifer is a contributor to Working for the future: re-imagining the children’s workforce, a seminar organised by Children in Scotland, the International Futures Forum and the Scottish Council Foundation on behalf of the Scottish Parliament’s Futures Forum which took place on 13 June in Edinburgh. A report of the conference will be available from Children in Scotland in September 2005.