The Future of Work

According to last August’s Labour Force Survey, Canada experienced the highest monthly increase in self-employment observed in the last 40 years1, a rise of approximately 87,000 self-employed positions2. Although this was a record high, it is reflective of a larger overall trend of increases in the country’s ‘do it yourself’ economy that we have seen in recent years3. Some interpret this trend as a symptom of troubling economic times, signifying that job opportunities are scarce and more initiative is needed for people to find ways of supporting themselves4. However, this can also be related to the growing possibilities and opportunities presented to younger generations through Web 2.0 technologies, increased access to ‘big data’ through the worldwide Internet, and enhanced ability to communicate and work remotely. Our modern day tools have allowed a higher number of people to start and work in businesses and consultancies without necessarily being restricted to ‘conventional office settings’. Coincidently, the co-benefits of working from home may become even more important in the long term, for example, reducing transaction costs of commuting in large urban centres and decreasing GHG emissions, while simultaneously reducing physical place costs. We live in a world were work space and place are collapsing, and we are less bound by the traditional office workplace.

On a broader scale, the nature and mode of the work has shifted as these opportunities for working ‘beyond the office’ have emerged, and we are seeing trends such as growth in the non-profit sector5, the building movement around producing open source products6, recent rises in volunteerism7. In addition, we are seeing more collective and collaborative workspaces, such as the HIVE in Vancouver, the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto and HUB Ottawa, which allow people to pursue their work focuses and interests, while still giving them access to social and intellectual capital and diverse networks. Ultimately, what we are seeing are new opportunities for engaging in different work modalities and work-lives present themselves, there is increasingly less ‘business as usual’, especially amongst the youth, and more integration of people’s passions, interests, lifestyles and (more critically) their social values a fundamental part of their work.

Paradoxically, some countries also have a mal-distribution of work - some people are over-employed while others under-employed. Those who are over-employed suffer from the health and quality of life issues resulting from poor work-life balance and those who are underemployed are often without access to benefits offered through more traditional employment opportunities (e.g. pension funds). In addition, serious mismatches between education and workplace opportunities are occurring, often preventing individuals from realizing their full potential. As these trends continue, we must then ask ourselves, what is the future of work and what are the future opportunities for younger generations?


The complete discussion can be downloaded here.

Discussion Participants

Professor Ann Dale, Moderator, is a Professor at Royal Roads University, School of Environment and Sustainability. She held her university's first Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Community Development, is Trudeau Fellow Alumna (2004), and is a Fellow of the World Academy of Arts and Science. Professor Dale chairs the Canadian Consortium for Sustainable Development Research (CCSDR), is a Board Member of the World Fisheries Trust and the founder of the National Environmental Treasure (the NET). Current research interests include climate change adaptation and mitigation, governance, social capital and agency, biodiversity conservation, place-based and virtual sustainable communities. She is a recipient of the 2001 Policy Research Initiative Award for Outstanding Contribution to Public Policy for her book, At the edge: sustainable development in the 21st century. Professor Dale is actively experimenting with research dissemination and social media, and has launched HEADTalks.

Karen Kun co-founded Waterlution 12 years ago with the purpose of inspiring pattern-making and pattern breaking change toward a healthier relationship with our water. It was during her time in South Africa in 2002 that the idea emerged, that to solve complex water issues, a blended format of content and process was needed; one without the other would lead only to partial results. Through Waterlution, Karen aims to push Waterlution’s capacity to be more creative and innovative and to inspire others to be the leaders and mentors they are capable of being. Water complexities require us to have cross-sector dialogue, in inter-generational learning, in pushing ourselves and each other to think in ways we never thought possible. Along with her water background, she is a skilled business leader who from 2005-2012 was publisher of Corporate Knights magazine.

Giovanna Mingarelli, CEO and Co-Founder of PlayMC2, Giovanna Mingarelli plays the dual role of international technology entrepreneur and thought leader. She has contributed to and has been interviewed by: Harvard Business Review, CBC Radio-Canada, The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star for her contributions to various social entrepreneurship and youth engagement initiatives. She is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post. Ms. Mingarelli has served in the press office of a former Prime Minister of Canada and has been a Parliamentary witness, speaking to the importance of including more young women in elected politics. With a growing global recognition as an expert on gamification of politics, social engagement and crowdsourcing, Ms. Mingarelli has attended and been an active contributor to events such as the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland and the United Nations World Summit on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in NYC. She is an Entrepreneur in Residence with 1125@Carleton, the University’s Living Labs.

Craig Bennell is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at Carleton University with a cross-appointment to the School of Linguistics and Language Studies. He is a previous President of the Society for Police and Criminal Psychology, edits the Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, and currently serves on the editorial boards of five leading criminal justice journals. He publishes widely on topics related to police training, use of force decision-making, and criminal investigations. He is the Director of the CFI-funded Police Research Laboratory and has been carrying out research with police agencies across Canada and the UK for more than 15 years. Currently, he is conducting a series of SSHRC-funded studies on use of force decision making with the RCMP and he is part of a SSHRC Partnership Development Grant that is examining the topic of police sustainability with six Canadian police agencies. Having witnessed the value that effective academic-community partnerships have brought to his own research, he is working to identify ways to connect researchers from across the Carleton campus with partnership and research opportunities in 1125@Carleton.

Michel Frojmovic is the Director and Owner of Acacia Consulting & Research, established in 1999 to help urban, municipal and community-based organizations make better use of data, information and knowledge in order to inform policy and effect change. Through his company, Michel has served as lead consultant offering comprehensive support to Canada's leading municipal indicator and community data access projects. These include the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' Quality of Life Reporting System (since 2002); the Canadian Council on Social Developments' Community Data Consortium Program (since 2005); and the Community Foundations of Canada's Vital Signs Reports (2006-2010). Michel is also serving as lead consultant to Community Data Canada, a multi-stakeholder process aimed at establishing a permanent forum for collaboration among Canadian governments & community organisations in support of improved access to and use of small area data for decision making.

Caroline van Bers is programme manager for The Integrated Assessment Society (TIAS), a non-profit association supporting academics and practitioners around the world who develop and use Integrated Assessment methods, and who often work at the science-policy interface. Caroline has been active in environmental management with academic, governmental and non-governmental organizations for over twenty-five years, working predominantly on interdisciplinary, applied research initiatives, and developing complementary education and training programmes. The themes she addresses include sustainable food systems, climate change adaptation & disaster risk reduction, water management, and integrated assessment methods including stakeholder involvement and participatory processes, and scenario development. 

Yuill Herbert is a founding director with Sustainability Solutions Group (SSG). Yuill has worked on sustainability consulting projects in the spheres of community planning, sustainability assessments and green buildings. Major projects include the development of an open source model to evaluate the climate change impacts of municipal plans, the development of a carbon neutral course for Cascadia Green Building Council and a sustainability assessment for Concordia University. Yuill also helped introduce the LEED for Homes rating system in Canada. He has advised municipal, provincial and federal governments on policies related to sustainability and is active in sustainable development research. 

Rebecca Foon
is an urban planner dedicated to integrating a holistic understanding of sustainability in growing healthy communities. She is an accomplished organizer and facilitator, sustainability management systems creator, sustainability assessment leader, and green building consultant. She has extensively researched water-related environmental issues in North America and India in partnership with the Indian Institute of Management. More recently, she worked as a sustainability/creative consultant for Planet Green's urban environment television series Wa$ted (Discovery Channel), and is the LEED coordinator for Proment Development's new residential development project targeting LEED gold in Montreal, Canada.

Jeremy Murphy
is an urban planner and sustainability specialist living in Vancouver, BC. As a Director with Sustainability Solutions Group Workers Cooperative, Jeremy has collaborated on dozens of sustainability and climate change projects for communities, universities, organizations and developers. Jeremy is also co-founder and Director of HiVE Vancouver – Vancouver’s innovative coworking space for change makers, hosting small businesses, not-for-profits and entrepreneurs with a focus on encouraging social impact and unlikely collaborations.


Chris Strashok holds a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Calgary and a master’s degree in Environment and Management from Royal Roads University. He is a CRC research associate and an associate Royal Roads University faculty member, teaching the Systems Methods for Environmental Management in the Masters for Environment and Management program. He has a background in computer modeling and simulation, sustainable community development, chemical engineering, and systems theory. He has put his modeling experience to practice when working with whatIf? Technologies developing computer-based simulation models for long-term strategic planning and scenario analysis.


1 The Globe and Mail (September 12, 2014). Canada’s labour data fail to shine proper light on self-employed

2 Statistics Canada (August, 2014). Labour force survey, August 2014

3 Ibid.

4 Financial Post (February 7, 2014). Canadian job market bounces back

5 Statistics Canada (2007). Satellite account of non-profit institutions and volunteering

6 Vézina, M., and Crompton, S. (2012). Volunteering in Canada. Component of Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 11-008-X.

7 Poynder, R. (2001). The open source movement. Information Today 18(9)