Magazine
11 avril 2018

Comment le revenu de base peut changer notre façon de penser au travail (et à l'argent)

La montée de l'automatisation, les inégalités galopantes et la perte potentielle de plus de 40 % des emplois d'ici 2030 font de l'idée d'un revenu universel de base (RUB) plus qu'une utopie fantaisiste. Au-delà de la politique fiscale et des débats économiques, le cœur de cette question est cependant ce que nous pensons que devraient être les emplois et, en fin de compte, notre relation avec l'argent. Le débat sur l'UBI nous oblige à remettre en question nos convictions les plus profondes sur ce qu'un individu devrait faire pour mériter un niveau de vie minimum, sur ce que nous considérons comme un travail significatif et sur ce que la société valorise en termes d'"activités économiques". Alors que certains pays commencent déjà de petits essais, d'autres ne veulent pas attendre que leur gouvernement se réveille pour agir et commencent à créer des solutions alternatives, à expérimenter avec et pour la population. [caption id="attachment_4212" align="alignleft" width="150"]

Steven Strehl est une organisation allemande à but non lucratif qui finance et tire au sort des revenus de base inconditionnels de 1 000 euros par mois. Elle a même contribué à lancer d'autres initiatives similaires en Europe. Steven Strehl est ingénieur de plate-forme et responsable des campagnes numériques au sein de l'ONG allemande. Il nous a parlé de son expérience et de la façon dont UBI pourrait changer notre façon de penser à notre travail.

Qu'est-ce qui vous a poussé à vous engager à plein temps dans l'idée et la réalité expérimentale du revenu de base universel ?

Steven Strehl : C'est drôle de commencer ici, c'est une question que nous nous posons assez régulièrement dans le cadre des Mein Grundeinkommen. Je me suis très vite rendu compte que c'était un sujet qui me tenait à cœur. Je viens d'une famille d'ouvriers et après la chute du mur de Berlin, il n'y avait pratiquement plus de travail pour les travailleurs qualifiés disponibles, alors ma mère a beaucoup lutté pour nous élever, ma sœur et moi. Comme l'argent a toujours été un problème, dès que j'ai pu, j'ai commencé à travailler. Pour moi, l'argent signifiait être indépendant, être libre de faire ce dont je rêvais indépendamment de ce que ma mère pouvait se permettre. Cependant, j'ai vite compris que le "travail" était en fait un obstacle à ce que je voulais vraiment faire. Pendant mes études, je n'y pensais pas beaucoup, mais à un moment donné, j'ai dû prendre une bourse pour continuer à financer mes études, parce que je voulais voyager, vivre à l'étranger... J'avais tellement faim de connaissances que je devais les chercher ailleurs.

Le revenu universel concerne tant de choses, il est question de pouvoir et de liberté, il s'agit de décider pour nous-mêmes, il s'agit de la famille, des relations, et bien plus encore.

À l'âge de 18 ans, j'avais déjà des dettes à payer. J'ai décidé que j'allais devenir programmeur informatique pour gagner assez d'argent pour pouvoir rembourser mes dettes. Pendant ma deuxième année à l'université, j'ai été encouragé à postuler pour une bourse. Dans la procédure de candidature, il fallait parler de quelqu'un qui vous inspire. J'ai choisi Götz Werner, le fondateur d'une chaîne de pharmacies allemande qui introduisait des postes hiérarchiques dynamiques dans ses magasins et il était un grand partisan du revenu de base, ce qui m'a vraiment ouvert l'esprit à cette idée. J'ai fini par obtenir la bourse, ce qui signifiait avoir de l'argent gratuitement pour la première fois de ma vie. Cependant, j'ai réalisé que parler de revenu de base ne suffirait pas. Nous avons tellement de modèles scientifiques qui disent que cela fonctionne, d'autres qui disent que cela ne fonctionnerait pas parce que ce n'est pas possible financièrement ou socialement, mais tant que nous ne le ferons pas et que nous n'aurons pas fait d'expériences, nous ne le saurons pas vraiment ! J'ai donc proposé à mes collègues de réunir toutes nos subventions pour un mois, de financer un revenu de base et de le donner à quelqu'un, sans aucune condition. J'ai contacté Mein Grundeinkommen, j'ai lancé l'idée et ils l'ont appréciée. Il se trouve que Mein Grundeinkommen avait une ouverture dans l'équipe et je les ai rejoints il y a deux ans. Pour moi, la partie la plus importante du revenu de base n'est pas la fin, quand l'argent arrive. Mais l'énorme quantité de questions que nous devons nous poser et poser à la société. Le revenu universel concerne tellement de choses, il concerne le pouvoir et la liberté, il concerne les décisions que nous prenons pour nous-mêmes, il concerne la famille, les relations, et bien d'autres choses encore. C'est pourquoi j'en ai fait mon travail à temps plein.

Vous avez déjà donné 132 revenus de base en Allemagne, quelles sont les découvertes les plus fascinantes ? Qu'ont fait les gens avec ces 1000 euros qui vous surprennent ?

SS : Il est vraiment difficile de ne choisir qu'une seule histoire parce que tant de personnes aux origines si différentes ont gagné. C'est ce qui rend toute l'expérience vraiment surprenante. Mais je peux donner un exemple, le plus inattendu est celui d'un coach d'affaires indépendant. Dès le jour où elle a commencé à recevoir l'argent, elle a décidé de faire quelque chose de différent avec ses clients. Au lieu de donner un prix fixe à son travail, elle a donné la liberté à ses clients de décider ce qu'ils pensent que son travail vaut. Le plus intriguant est que ses clients ont eu beaucoup de mal à accepter ce nouveau système et lui ont demandé de s'arrêter et de leur dire simplement combien elle voulait pour son travail, car ils disaient que l'incertitude du prix final entravait le travail réel. Je trouve fascinant que les gens aient eu autant de mal à répondre à la question de savoir combien le travail de quelqu'un vaut réellement pour leur entreprise. La crainte initiale était plutôt qu'ils ne puissent la payer que très peu.

L'un de vos projets expérimentaux consiste à proposer des stages rémunérés sans obligation de travail. Comment vos stagiaires ont-ils réagi ? Leurs idées sur la signification du travail et de l'argent ont-elles changé ?

SS : Nos stages inconditionnels sont en fait des expériences de revenu de base. Nos stagiaires sont payés 1000 euros par mois et ils n'ont aucune obligation de faire quoi que ce soit. Le résultat ? Ils sont les plus puissants de l'organisation ! Nous avons une hiérarchie dynamique et ils ont la liberté de se déplacer et de travailler dans le domaine qu'ils préfèrent, donc ils finissent par être bien plus puissants que n'importe lequel d'entre nous. Ce que cela nous apprend sur le revenu de base, c'est que tout est une question de confiance. Faut-il définir un cadre pour que les gens puissent travailler afin d'être productifs ou faut-il leur laisser une totale liberté pour le faire ? Bien sûr, la réponse n'est pas un simple oui ou non. Dès qu'on ne demande plus aux gens de faire quelque chose de précis, c'est évidemment plus difficile parce que vous devez définir les cadres vous-même, mais cela signifie aussi que vous devez remettre les choses en question. Nous remarquons que lorsque nos stagiaires cessent de venir au bureau, ils disent : "Désolé, vous ne fournissez plus l'environnement de travail dans lequel je veux travailler". Cette liberté nous aide donc à comprendre que nous devons nous améliorer dans un domaine spécifique. Cette liberté nous aide donc à comprendre que nous devons nous améliorer dans un domaine spécifique. Par exemple, nous avons dû changer la dynamique d'inclusion au sein de l'équipe. Nous avons travaillé très dur pour qu'ils se sentent responsabilisés et impliqués dans les décisions quotidiennes, quels que soient leur titre et leur salaire. Il s'agit d'un changement de culture qui permet à chacun de sentir qu'il peut apprendre de tout le monde. En fin de compte, c'est une question de confiance et de communication.

Par rapport à d'autres initiatives UBI, comme celle organisée par le gouvernement finlandais, votre projet est entièrement financé par la foule et organisé par la population. Compte tenu de votre grand succès jusqu'à présent, pensez-vous que davantage de gouvernements s'ouvriront à l'idée ? Cela fait-il partie de vos objectifs, d'influencer éventuellement les politiques publiques ?

SS : Nous n'avons rien à prouver et nous n'avons pas d'agenda politique. Je pense que c'est ce qui nous distingue des autres initiatives.

Notre objectif est de faire connaître le revenu de base et de voir à travers les histoires si les gens le souhaitent vraiment. Nous ne disons pas que l'UBI est le but ultime, nous n'en sommes même pas sûrs nous-mêmes, mais nous pensons que c'est l'une des visions les plus positives pour la société en ce moment.

C'est aussi l'un des rares, sinon le seul, qui va de pair avec l'automatisation. Elle remet en question le pouvoir, et en même temps, elle permet aux gens de dialoguer entre eux. Le résultat le plus gratifiant pour moi, c'est après être allé aux événements pour en parler, quand les gens viennent me voir et me disent "oh vous savez, quand je suis venu ici j'étais contre, mais je vous vois, et vous avez posé de bonnes questions et cela a rendu cela personnel pour moi et j'aime qu'on me pose des questions sans être poussé à aimer ça, alors maintenant je veux essayer". Et c'est la clé ! Il ne s'agit pas d'avoir des discussions sans fin sur le revenu de base, personne ne sait si cela va marcher ou si c'est vraiment la solution que nous avons imaginée, mais au moins nous pourrions essayer.

L'"universalité" du revenu de base fait l'objet de nombreux débats. Tout le monde n'est pas d'accord sur le fait que tout le monde devrait recevoir de "l'argent gratuit". Pourquoi pensez-vous que l'universalité est la meilleure approche au lieu de se concentrer uniquement sur les plus défavorisés ?

SS : La première chose est que le fait de cibler les "pauvres", quoi que cela signifie, ferait du revenu de base un marqueur sur la société indiquant que vous n'avez pas assez d'argent, donc c'est discriminatoire. La deuxième chose est qu'il faudrait une administration pour définir ce qu'est un pauvre et définir les paramètres de la pauvreté. Le problème est que la pauvreté peut être un sentiment très personnel, qui dépend de plus de choses que du seul revenu net. De plus, le modèle qui consiste à ne pas avoir d'administration pour redistribuer l'argent, mais à donner simplement 1000 euros à tout le monde dans la société est le plus rentable et permet d'économiser de l'argent également.

Les deux plus grands mythes qui entourent l'UBI sont qu'il est beaucoup trop cher et qu'il pousserait les gens à quitter le marché du travail. Même si le est une preuve suffisante pour suggérer Si cela ne se produit pas, je pense que nous ne devrions pas nous concentrer uniquement sur les mesures économiques, mais sur la qualité de vie des gens. Comment pensez-vous que nous pouvons changer ce paradigme ? En déplaçant le débat ?

SS : Je pense que s'il y a une demande dans les sociétés pour un revenu de base ou une sorte de garantie pour la dignité de la vie, ce changement de paradigme se produira, indépendamment de ce que disent les modèles économiques actuels. Les politiciens et les économistes manquent d'idées pour la société post-capitaliste dont nous sommes très proches. Nous sommes en pleine transition et il n'y a pas de réponses à des problèmes très fondamentaux tels que les très bas salaires, la pauvreté croissante et les inégalités croissantes. Nous n'avons pas toutes les réponses, mais nous pensons que lorsque les gens sont informés, ils n'en ont pas peur. Cela peut créer un terrain plus positif pour que les politiciens se contentent de prendre les idées et de les concrétiser. L'UBI n'arrivera pas d'un jour à l'autre. Beaucoup de choses doivent changer avant, de la façon dont nous innovons - à quel but et dans quelle mesure - à ce que nous considérons comme un travail précieux. Et surtout, nous devons séparer nos identités personnelles de nos titres de travail. Nous devons vouloir nous libérer et assumer nos choix au-delà des questions d'argent.

Combien de personnes se retrouvent dans des carrières qu'elles n'aiment pas simplement parce qu'elles apportent une certaine stabilité financière ? Et pourquoi y a-t-il peu d'incitations financières pour les emplois qui maintiennent réellement notre société et font que notre vie vaut la peine d'être vécue ?

Nous devons prendre conscience de ce que la société perd en poussant les gens à utiliser les mauvaises incitations. Combien d'enseignants, de philosophes, de linguistes ou de soignants avons-nous perdu pour gagner de l'argent, pour survivre ? J'ai eu de la chance dans ma vie jusqu'à présent, mais je ne veux pas que ce soit le défaut de notre société, qu'il faille avoir de la chance pour avoir un minimum de dignité. C'est un énorme changement de paradigme et cela pourrait prendre un certain temps, mais cela viendra des demandes croissantes des gens pour une vie meilleure. Quoi que cela signifie.

Comment le revenu de base peut changer notre façon de penser au travail (et à l'argent)

par 
Fernanda Marin
Fernanda Marin
Magazine
15 janvier 2018
Share on

What would you do if you got 1.000 euros per month, no strings attached? Would you quit your job? Pay your debts? Save enough money to travel around the world? Would you start your own business? Would you do some volunteer work?

The rise of automation, rampant inequalities and the potential loss of over 40% of jobs by 2030 is making the idea of basic universal income (UBI) more than a fanciful utopia. Beyond fiscal policy and economic debates, at the core of this issue, however, is what we think jobs should be and ultimately our relationship with money. The UBI debate forces us to question our deepest beliefs about what an individual should do to deserve a minimum living standard, what do we consider meaningful work and what society values in terms of "economic activities". While some countries are already starting small trials, others do not want to wait until their government wakes up to do something about it and are starting to create alternative solutions, to experiment with and for the people. [caption id="attachment_4212" align="alignleft" width="150"]

Steven Strehl is a German non-for profit organization that crowdfunds and raffles off unconditional basic incomes of 1.000 euros a month. They have even helped kick-start other similar initiatives around Europe. Steven Strehl is a Platform Engineer and Digital Campaigner at the German NGO. He talked to us about his experience and how UBI could change the way we think about our jobs.

What made you commit full-time to the idea and experimental reality of universal basic income?

Steven Strehl: Funny to start here, that's a question we pose ourselves at Mein Grundeinkommen quite regularly. I realised very quickly that is was a topic very close to my heart. I come from a workers family and after the fall of the Berlin Wall there was practically no work for qualified workers available anymore, so my mum struggled a lot to raise my sister and me. Because money was always an issue, as soon as I could I started to work. Money for me meant to be independent, to be free to do what I dreamt of independently from what my mother could afford. However, soon I realised that 'work' was actually in the way of what I really wanted to do. During school, I did not think much about this, but at some point, I had to take a grant to keep financing my studies, because I wanted to travel, to live abroad... I was so hungry for knowledge that I had to look for it somewhere else.

Universal income is about so many things, it is about power and freedom, it is about deciding for ourselves, it is about family, relations, and so much more.

By the time I was 18 years old I already had debts to pay. I decided I was going to be a computer programmer to earn enough money to be able to pay back my debts. During my second year at university, I was encouraged to apply to a fellowship. In the application process, you had to talk about someone who inspires you. I chose Götz Werner, the founder of a German drugstore chain who was introducing dynamic hierarchical positions across its stores and he was a major supporter of basic income, so that really opened my mind to the idea. I ended up getting the fellowship which meant having money for free for the first time in my life. However, I realised that talking about basic income would not make it happen. We have so many scientific models that say that works, others that say it would not work because is not financially or socially possible, but until we don't actually do it and experiment we won't really know! So I proposed to my fellow colleagues to put all our grants for one month together, finance a basic income and give it away to someone, without any conditions. I contacted Mein Grundeinkommen, I pitched the idea and they liked it. Mein Grundeinkommen happened to have an opening in the team and I joined them two years ago. For me, the most important part of basic income is not the end, when the money arrives. But the enormous amount of questions that we get to ask ourselves and to society. Universal income is about so many things, it is about power and freedom, it is about deciding for ourselves, it is about family, relations, and so much more. That is why I made it my full-time job.

You've already given 132 basic incomes in Germany, what are the most fascinating discoveries? What have people done with those 1000 euros that surprise you?

SS: It is really difficult to just pick one story because so many people with so very different backgrounds have won. That makes the entire experiment really surprising. But I can give one example, the most unexpected one came from a freelance business coach. From the day she started receiving the money, she decided to do something different with her clients, instead of giving a fixed price to her work, she gave the freedom to her clients to decide what they think her work was worth. The most intriguing part was that her clients had a very hard time dealing with this new system and actually asked her to stop and just tell them how much she wanted for her work because they said the uncertainty of the final price was getting in the way of the actual work. I find fascinating that people had such a hard time answering the question of how much someone's work is actually worth to their company. The initial fear was rather that they could just pay her very little.

One of your experimental projects is to offer paid internships without any obligation to work. How have your interns reacted? Have their ideas of what work and money mean changed?

SS: Our unconditional internships are actually basic income experiments. Our interns get paid 1000 euros a month and they have no obligations to do anything. The result? They are the most powerful in the organisation! We have a dynamic hierarchy and they have the freedom to move and work in whichever area they prefer, so they end up being way more powerful than any of us. What this teaches us about basic income is that is all a matter of trust. Do you need to define a framework for people to work so they can be productive or should they get complete freedom to do so? Of course, the answer is not a simple yes or no. As soon as people are not asked to do something specific anymore, of course, is harder because you have to set the frames yourself, but it also means you get to question things. We notice that when our interns stop coming to the office they are saying "Sorry, you're not providing the working environment I want to work in any more”. So we get to dialogue with them because of course, we want them there with us, so this liberty helps us realise we need to improve in a specific area. Something we've had to change for example is the inclusion dynamics within the team. We've worked really hard on making them feel empowered and with the same degree of involvement in everyday decisions, regardless of their title and pay. It has been a shift of culture so everyone feels they can learn from everybody. So bottom line, it is about trust and communication.

Compared to other UBI initiatives, like the one organised by the Finnish government, your project is completely crowd-funded and organised by the people. Given your big success so far, do you think more governments will open to the idea? Is that part of your goals, to eventually influence public policy?

SS: We have nothing to prove and we have no political agenda. That I think is what sets us apart from other initiatives.

Our goal is to spread the word about basic income and to see by the stories if people actually want it. We don't say UBI is the ultimate goal, we're not even sure ourselves, but we think is one of the most positive visions at the moment for society.

It is also one of the few, if not the only one that goes together with automatisation. It questions power, and at the same time, it empowers people to have dialogues with each other. The most rewarding outcome for me, is after going to events to talk about it, when people come to me and say "oh you know, when I came here I was against it, but I see you, and you asked some good questions and that has made it personal for me and I like being asked questions without being pushed to like it, so now I want to try it!”. And that's the key! It is not about having endless arguments about basic income, nobody knows if it will work or if it really is the solution we have imagined, but at least we might give it a try.

There is a lot of debate about the 'universality' of basic income. Not everyone agrees that everyone should get "free money". Why do you think universal is the best approach instead of focusing only on the most disadvantaged ones?

SS: The first thing is that targeting 'poor people', whatever that means would make basic income a marker on society that you do not have enough money, so it is discriminating. The second thing is that you would need an administration to define what poor is and define parameters of poverty. The problem is that poverty can be a very personal feeling, that depends on more things that just net income. Moreover, the model of not having any administration to redistribute the money, but just give 1000 euros to everyone in society is the most cost-efficient and money saving as well.

The two biggest myths around UBI is that it's far too expensive and that it would push people out of the labour force. Even though there is ample evidence to suggest that does not happen, I think we shouldn't focus only on economic metrics but on people's life quality. How do you think we can change that paradigm? Shift the debate?

SS: I think that if there is a demand in societies for basic income or some kind of guarantee for life dignity that paradigm shift will come, regardless of what the economic models now say. Politicians and economist lack ideas for the post-capitalist society we are very close to. We are in the middle of the transition and there are no answers to very basic problems such as very low wages, increasing poverty and rising inequalities. We do not have all the answers, but we believe that when people are informed they are not afraid of it. This may create a more positive ground for politicians to just take the ideas and make them a reality. UBI won't happen from one day to another. A lot of things need to change before, from how we innovate -to what purpose and to what extent- to what we consider valuable work. And most importantly we need to separate our personal identities from our work titles. We need to want to break free and assume our choices beyond money concerns.

How many people end up in careers they do not like just because it provides some financial stability? And why are few financial incentives provided for jobs that really hold our society together and make our lives worth living ?

We need to realise how much society is losing by driving people with the wrong incentives. How many teachers, philosophers, linguists or caregivers have we lost for the sake of making money, for the sake of surviving? I have been lucky in my life so far, but I do not want this to be the default in our society, that you need to be lucky to have a minimum of dignity. This is an enormous paradigm shift and it might take some time, but it will come from the increasing demands of the people for a better life. Whatever that means.

by 
Fernanda Marin
Fernanda Marin
Magazine
January 15, 2018

How basic income can change the way we think about work (and money)

by
Fernanda Marin
Fernanda Marin
Magazine
Share on

What would you do if you got 1.000 euros per month, no strings attached? Would you quit your job? Pay your debts? Save enough money to travel around the world? Would you start your own business? Would you do some volunteer work?

The rise of automation, rampant inequalities and the potential loss of over 40% of jobs by 2030 is making the idea of basic universal income (UBI) more than a fanciful utopia. Beyond fiscal policy and economic debates, at the core of this issue, however, is what we think jobs should be and ultimately our relationship with money. The UBI debate forces us to question our deepest beliefs about what an individual should do to deserve a minimum living standard, what do we consider meaningful work and what society values in terms of "economic activities". While some countries are already starting small trials, others do not want to wait until their government wakes up to do something about it and are starting to create alternative solutions, to experiment with and for the people. [caption id="attachment_4212" align="alignleft" width="150"]

Steven Strehl is a German non-for profit organization that crowdfunds and raffles off unconditional basic incomes of 1.000 euros a month. They have even helped kick-start other similar initiatives around Europe. Steven Strehl is a Platform Engineer and Digital Campaigner at the German NGO. He talked to us about his experience and how UBI could change the way we think about our jobs.

What made you commit full-time to the idea and experimental reality of universal basic income?

Steven Strehl: Funny to start here, that's a question we pose ourselves at Mein Grundeinkommen quite regularly. I realised very quickly that is was a topic very close to my heart. I come from a workers family and after the fall of the Berlin Wall there was practically no work for qualified workers available anymore, so my mum struggled a lot to raise my sister and me. Because money was always an issue, as soon as I could I started to work. Money for me meant to be independent, to be free to do what I dreamt of independently from what my mother could afford. However, soon I realised that 'work' was actually in the way of what I really wanted to do. During school, I did not think much about this, but at some point, I had to take a grant to keep financing my studies, because I wanted to travel, to live abroad... I was so hungry for knowledge that I had to look for it somewhere else.

Universal income is about so many things, it is about power and freedom, it is about deciding for ourselves, it is about family, relations, and so much more.

By the time I was 18 years old I already had debts to pay. I decided I was going to be a computer programmer to earn enough money to be able to pay back my debts. During my second year at university, I was encouraged to apply to a fellowship. In the application process, you had to talk about someone who inspires you. I chose Götz Werner, the founder of a German drugstore chain who was introducing dynamic hierarchical positions across its stores and he was a major supporter of basic income, so that really opened my mind to the idea. I ended up getting the fellowship which meant having money for free for the first time in my life. However, I realised that talking about basic income would not make it happen. We have so many scientific models that say that works, others that say it would not work because is not financially or socially possible, but until we don't actually do it and experiment we won't really know! So I proposed to my fellow colleagues to put all our grants for one month together, finance a basic income and give it away to someone, without any conditions. I contacted Mein Grundeinkommen, I pitched the idea and they liked it. Mein Grundeinkommen happened to have an opening in the team and I joined them two years ago. For me, the most important part of basic income is not the end, when the money arrives. But the enormous amount of questions that we get to ask ourselves and to society. Universal income is about so many things, it is about power and freedom, it is about deciding for ourselves, it is about family, relations, and so much more. That is why I made it my full-time job.

You've already given 132 basic incomes in Germany, what are the most fascinating discoveries? What have people done with those 1000 euros that surprise you?

SS: It is really difficult to just pick one story because so many people with so very different backgrounds have won. That makes the entire experiment really surprising. But I can give one example, the most unexpected one came from a freelance business coach. From the day she started receiving the money, she decided to do something different with her clients, instead of giving a fixed price to her work, she gave the freedom to her clients to decide what they think her work was worth. The most intriguing part was that her clients had a very hard time dealing with this new system and actually asked her to stop and just tell them how much she wanted for her work because they said the uncertainty of the final price was getting in the way of the actual work. I find fascinating that people had such a hard time answering the question of how much someone's work is actually worth to their company. The initial fear was rather that they could just pay her very little.

One of your experimental projects is to offer paid internships without any obligation to work. How have your interns reacted? Have their ideas of what work and money mean changed?

SS: Our unconditional internships are actually basic income experiments. Our interns get paid 1000 euros a month and they have no obligations to do anything. The result? They are the most powerful in the organisation! We have a dynamic hierarchy and they have the freedom to move and work in whichever area they prefer, so they end up being way more powerful than any of us. What this teaches us about basic income is that is all a matter of trust. Do you need to define a framework for people to work so they can be productive or should they get complete freedom to do so? Of course, the answer is not a simple yes or no. As soon as people are not asked to do something specific anymore, of course, is harder because you have to set the frames yourself, but it also means you get to question things. We notice that when our interns stop coming to the office they are saying "Sorry, you're not providing the working environment I want to work in any more”. So we get to dialogue with them because of course, we want them there with us, so this liberty helps us realise we need to improve in a specific area. Something we've had to change for example is the inclusion dynamics within the team. We've worked really hard on making them feel empowered and with the same degree of involvement in everyday decisions, regardless of their title and pay. It has been a shift of culture so everyone feels they can learn from everybody. So bottom line, it is about trust and communication.

Compared to other UBI initiatives, like the one organised by the Finnish government, your project is completely crowd-funded and organised by the people. Given your big success so far, do you think more governments will open to the idea? Is that part of your goals, to eventually influence public policy?

SS: We have nothing to prove and we have no political agenda. That I think is what sets us apart from other initiatives.

Our goal is to spread the word about basic income and to see by the stories if people actually want it. We don't say UBI is the ultimate goal, we're not even sure ourselves, but we think is one of the most positive visions at the moment for society.

It is also one of the few, if not the only one that goes together with automatisation. It questions power, and at the same time, it empowers people to have dialogues with each other. The most rewarding outcome for me, is after going to events to talk about it, when people come to me and say "oh you know, when I came here I was against it, but I see you, and you asked some good questions and that has made it personal for me and I like being asked questions without being pushed to like it, so now I want to try it!”. And that's the key! It is not about having endless arguments about basic income, nobody knows if it will work or if it really is the solution we have imagined, but at least we might give it a try.

There is a lot of debate about the 'universality' of basic income. Not everyone agrees that everyone should get "free money". Why do you think universal is the best approach instead of focusing only on the most disadvantaged ones?

SS: The first thing is that targeting 'poor people', whatever that means would make basic income a marker on society that you do not have enough money, so it is discriminating. The second thing is that you would need an administration to define what poor is and define parameters of poverty. The problem is that poverty can be a very personal feeling, that depends on more things that just net income. Moreover, the model of not having any administration to redistribute the money, but just give 1000 euros to everyone in society is the most cost-efficient and money saving as well.

The two biggest myths around UBI is that it's far too expensive and that it would push people out of the labour force. Even though there is ample evidence to suggest that does not happen, I think we shouldn't focus only on economic metrics but on people's life quality. How do you think we can change that paradigm? Shift the debate?

SS: I think that if there is a demand in societies for basic income or some kind of guarantee for life dignity that paradigm shift will come, regardless of what the economic models now say. Politicians and economist lack ideas for the post-capitalist society we are very close to. We are in the middle of the transition and there are no answers to very basic problems such as very low wages, increasing poverty and rising inequalities. We do not have all the answers, but we believe that when people are informed they are not afraid of it. This may create a more positive ground for politicians to just take the ideas and make them a reality. UBI won't happen from one day to another. A lot of things need to change before, from how we innovate -to what purpose and to what extent- to what we consider valuable work. And most importantly we need to separate our personal identities from our work titles. We need to want to break free and assume our choices beyond money concerns.

How many people end up in careers they do not like just because it provides some financial stability? And why are few financial incentives provided for jobs that really hold our society together and make our lives worth living ?

We need to realise how much society is losing by driving people with the wrong incentives. How many teachers, philosophers, linguists or caregivers have we lost for the sake of making money, for the sake of surviving? I have been lucky in my life so far, but I do not want this to be the default in our society, that you need to be lucky to have a minimum of dignity. This is an enormous paradigm shift and it might take some time, but it will come from the increasing demands of the people for a better life. Whatever that means.

by 
Fernanda Marin
Fernanda Marin
Magazine
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