Supporting Work

People who do supporting work might call themselves a producer, a stage manager, or a facilitator, mentor, good neighbour. Some refer to this work as Fairy Godparenting, or bumblebeeing, or Pied Pipering. It might be part of the work they do, or all of it.

Everyone who does supporting work might describe it differently. It's the making of connections to help your work flow better, or the solving of puzzles by linking you to a solution, or the work of helping you get whatever support you might need.

You might have been the recipient of supporting work through unpaid advocacy, or incidentally through a traditional paid role.

If you want your process or project to specifically benefit from supporting work, you can add this unique role to your team. Everyone who does supporting work will have their own specialities, but general areas of support often include aspects of these four areas.

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Connecting

Facilitating connection to people and/or resources:

  • via signposting to information sources, or through introduction to a personal connection


  • from personal experience and industry knowledge, or from general industry familiarity


  • to identify like-minded people and connect them with each other


Those who do supporting work often have access to resources that are specific to their fields of expertise, and an understanding of how to make connections where they don't.


Connections might be prompted by someone needing something, or by seeing where people might be good together, or to instigate an idea with the people who could bring it to fruition.

This work might take the form of a one-off consultancy, or it might be the start of a collaboration that becomes something else.

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Holding space

Providing and holding safe spaces:

  • for the purposes of making connections, as above

  • to facilitate action and/or creativity

  • for mediation


People who do supporting work can sometimes be the safe space themselves, for such things as:

  • active listening or accompanying, or just moral support

  • the voice of experience

  • identifying useful parameters, and/or being responsible for maintaining them


They can also bring safety to an existing space, through recognition or validation of the intention, the process, and the space being held by others.

This work is most often durational, beginning and ending on the outskirts of the project. It can also be the most invisible and seemingly inactive role, even though it is very active and focused work.

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Facilitating additional support

Supporting people in accessing support from elsewhere, by anticipating and/or assisting with:

  • understanding the kind of support required


  • knowing about the kind of support available

  • the process of applying for that support

This work can be short-term consultancy and/or assistance, or it can be an ongoing advisory relationship.

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Advocacy

Support workers are often advocates, seeing where change is needed and pushing for it to happen. They might do this through:

  • asking questions that spark movement or change


  • speaking up about perceived injustices


  • amplifying the voices of others

Although advocacy is often voluntary, it can also take the form of consultancy to ensure that less represented voices have representation.

Find someone who does supporting work

You can find people who do supporting work in any of the places you would usually look for a producer or stage manager, advocate or facilitator. Feel free to use this page to identify the work you do, or the work you want someone to do.

 

These descriptions were crafted by people who do this work, to help clarify these roles for the purposes of:

  • clear communication and expectations around this job of work

  • encouraging the addition of supporting work to your team and your budget

  • assisting with descriptions of this work for job applications, and for funding applications

You might find that anyone who does supporting work will be able to point you at someone else who does it, especially if you need a specific area of expertise that they don't have.

 

There is an informal network of such people gathered in a Facebook group lovingly named Fairy Godparenting. If you do this kind of work, you're more than welcome to join the group.