by Dana Warren
“What we find changes who we become.” – Peter Morville
I happened upon the On the Move Partnership while researching the social effects of commuting in social work. Parents, families and communities are responding to economic needs with flexibility, but mobility effects their lived experiences, parenting practices, the health of their intimate and personal relationships, and how they participate in their communities. I’d never actually thought about commuting, or “employment-related geographical mobility” (quite the mouthful!), in any critical context. Newfoundlanders have been commuting for more than 500 years. My grandfather spent months at sea. His grandfather crossed the ocean to find fish and never left. But the implications of this research project shifted my worldview and my notion of the future.
On the Move is a seven year, multi-million dollar project with partnerships in seven provinces and several countries worldwide that looks at how “changes in mobility patterns relate to larger scale changes in the nature of work, competitiveness and prosperity.”
“We know it’s changing but we don’t know exactly how,” says Dr. Nicole Power. “Existing research on employment-related mobility is limited and fragmented, but shows that it is likely affecting key domains of Canadian life.” I ask, “Why do we need to know?” She smiles. “Where do I start?”
For the first time in my academic experience, I am encouraged to consider the many complexities and permutations of movement. What do we become in the context of being “available” for work anywhere on the planet? How does mobility implicate our health, the health of our families and communities, and the very framework of society? Does competition affect how we flourish as a country? What will our borders look like in a century? How might we adapt?
Our society will need to respond to our ever-evolving world. Research helps us formulate the story of how that world might look as we contemplate, define, and create a prosperous future.
Dana Warren is currently studying Social Work at Memorial University of Newfoundland.
NOTE: Opinions expressed here are those of the author(s).