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Work Design in the Media - Reflections from PSYC5515 Students

UWA's PSYC5515 (Organisational Development and Work Design) students were challenged to apply work design principles to media pieces - this could include news articles, movies, or even public lectures such as TED talks. Media sources included in the reflection pieces by our students were very creative, and it was an interesting exercise for students to apply work design principles to areas which they would usually never have thought of.

See below for the winning essay by Maya Beaucasin, and other reflection pieces which we also really enjoyed!


Barefoot College Enriches Work for the Poor

In 2011, I had the privilege of visiting India’s “Barefoot College” and meeting its founder, Sanjit “Bunker” Roy. His lecture aired on the ABC’s “Big Ideas” program (23 August 2017) and caught my attention as being relevant to the field of work design. It made me cast my mind back to the experience of visiting his progressive workshops in the middle of the desert.

In this lecture titled “Demystifing Professionalism: The Barefoot Gandhian Model” at the University of Melbourne, Paul Barclay introduces Roy as the thought leader behind the Barefoot Philosophy. Roy places great value on traditional knowledge and removing illiteracy as a barrier to learning and richer forms of employment. Founded fifty years ago, the College has trained villagers to self-manage water, energy, health and education. His College is the only one in India that is fully solar powered and engineered by the community itself. Its education programs boost the status of village women with initiatives like "Solar Mammas”, empowering grandmothers in Africa and India to install solar energy in their villages.

The lecture provides a solid example of the work characteristic of "task significance", which refers to an individual feeling that they are making an important difference through their work. Roy described the pleasure he experiences each time he helps to bring new projects into the College and reflects upon why the illiterate cannot be considered engineers or architects in their own communities and in their own unique way through role modification. The lecture also highlighted the importance of psychosocial support for helping these workers to cope with new challenges and stepping outside cultural norms. Roy described how the support of community elders helped him to overcome hurdles in the set up of the College in Tilonia, India.

Roy’s philosophy of using different learning tools for the illiterate also provides an example of job crafting, which refers to individuals taking the initiative to design the work themselves, moulding their tasks and responsibilities to fit their skills and interests. In recent years, Roy himself designed his role to help rural communities outside India including taking delegates from Africa. These students intend to return to their communities in their own capacities as specialists in solar power, sanitation and teaching. Through the expansion of the College under Roy, he has enhanced the meaning in his job even further. Roy’s experience is truly a remarkable example of work design in the non-profit sector.

Listen to the lecture here.


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