The Future of Work, Community & Service

How long-term service encourages a freelance future


The Atlantic recently published an article titled the A World Without Work (read it here). In summary, as cashier, office clerk, and driver jobs are replaced with artificial intelligence (47% will be by 2050 according to the article) our society is predicted to veer off into a combination of two worlds. The first being massive unemployment and all the negative impacts of that: increased domestic violence, alcoholism and depression, a world where people sit in solitude on couches staring at screens that deliver movies and TV shows. The second is a world of self-employment, filled with communities of creatives, people who are civically engaged, build furniture, volunteer three days a week and trade crops for locally-sewn clothing.


I am left thinking about the role long-term service programs play in this new paradigm. I think of the journey my close friend Katie (also an AmeriCorps VISTA alum) and I have embarked upon.  We both launched our freelance careers after our AmeriCorps experience, and the work we produced at our service locations remain significant projects in our portfolios, the nonprofits we served were in some ways the first domino in a cascade of clients.


It was a day, early in my year-long term as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Shakti Rising when the business development director approached me about this Salesforce CRM they had signed up for months ago, but she had not had the bandwidth to implement (I would come to learn this is a common dilemma amongst the nonprofit sector).  I agreed to take a look having recently completed an entry to programing class. Implementing Salesforce became a nine month project and involved me clearing out the entire database 3 times and reimporting because I messed up the data architecture. Regardless after completing the project other NPOs in the area started asking me for help, and with a strong testimonial from Shakti Rising, I became a freelancer.  The money I bring in from consulting at times is my sustaining income and at others is additional “side hustle” but one thing is for sure- I would not have the flexibility to operate NGS (a volunteer-led organization) without the consulting life style.


Katie has a similar story with her design freelance work (Golden Grouper). It has allowed her the flexibility to travel and help her husband with the operation of  the Raptor Institute, an environmental education program. Katie and I are not the norm among AmeriCorps Alums, many work full-time jobs but I think we both recognize that the fast-paced, multi-facetted, creative problem solving roles we held during our service terms provided experience that made running our own business seem more manageable. And if, one day, there is a world without work those that have focused on service early in their career, I imagine will have the skills and wherewithal to choose the path of community and service.

Writen By Anna Lenhart