On the money taboo

Playwork prepares us to have conversations about issues which are taboo – about dark play, violence, sexuality. When it comes to those facets of childhood which most adults would rather pretend do not exist, we have developed methods to observe, reflect and discuss.  But some issues are particularly difficult for us to raise in the loud and echoing silence. We might stumble over them in our own lives, prefer soft cotton wool to potentially spiky conversations. But opting to remain silent is a kind of privilege – rarely more so than in the case of money.

Money! Why is it so difficult to talk about? I’m no exception but still find this widespread awkwardness fascinating. I’ve been reading the Billfold for months now, a site which brings together all sorts of stories from people with a range of financial expectations and experiences. People ‘do’ money very differently, and it means different things to each of us.

We say that ‘money is tight’ in the sector right now, and that’s certainly true. We say that frontline playwork shouldn’t be a minimum wage profession, and that’s certainly true. But when it comes to discussing budgets and funding, finding options that help us navigate these issues together rather than in competition – that’s where things get tricky.

I’ve been thinking about this particularly in recent weeks because of two things. First, I found a document begun nearly two years ago that discusses different kinds of funding models and how they might impact upon our work (I’m rewriting it to post shortly). Then second, we launched an Indiegogo campaign.

Remember when the very idea of crowdfunding seemed revolutionary? A time before all those emails from friends about campaigns and funding drives? I’m lucky to have friends in creative or non-profity endeavors, so I get a few of these emails and generally try to contribute. It’s similar to buying gifts for showers and weddings – I feel glad to be able to help a friend make an interesting choice with their life, and it feels as if that small amount of money says “I believe in you, in this idea, and you have my support”. But I feel profoundly uncomfortable promoting a campaign I’m involved in.

This is partly because I hate asking for help, as anyone who’s seen me struggle with a honey jar will confirm.

It’s largely because, like many people, I’m uncomfortable discussing money or financial need openly. We often feel misunderstood when we talk about money, because we’re usually talking about something else entirely. Security. Freedom. Value. Our own meanings and assumptions are projected onto a fog.

That’s why I’m going to post a short series on funding and playwork. Hopefully people will respond with stories and thoughts of their own, and we’ll be up and running!  It’s scary, of course, but isn’t that what we’re equipped for? Reflection hardly counts unless you’re squirming a little, unless you recognize the immanent danger of finding out what you really think.


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