Purpose & Passion

Purpose & Passion: What mark does the work leave on the world? Some mention enjoyment. Others, how important it is to feel accomplished, or to finding satisfaction in helping others. It is part of why transparency (in impact, and reason for doing the work) is important. 

Find references for this section at the bottom of this page or see the PDF for in-text citations.

Only a few studies explore this issue with participants—what does the work mean, beyond the paycheck? Some early studies note how some microtaskers see it as a “make-do job” (Martin et al. 2016), or something done just for enjoyment (Gupta et al. 2014; Berg 2016). Enjoyment—the chance to do something one wants to do—also came up in one study of freelancers (Graham, Hjorth, and Lehdonvirta 2017). 

Regardless of whether the work is fun, some mention how important it is to feel accomplished. This can be framed as “acknowledgement of a job well done” (Zollmann and Wanjala 2020), self-efficacy (Margaryan 2016), or intrinsic motivation (Brawley and Pury 2016).

Some social commerce entrepreneurs also mention finding satisfaction in helping others (McAdam, Crowley, and Harrison 2020). This may seem like entrepreneurialism, but if the focus is on the need fulfilled rather than the dream realized, it may have a slightly different, albeit related significance.

Perhaps the purpose and passion come from a calculation and realization of all of the other elements discussed in this review—everything from the flexibility and the agency to the learning and the service provided. As Gray and Suri (2019, 118) put it, “We found that workers doing on-demand ghost work, like workers everywhere, have more in mind than getting paid when they take on a job. Caring about something other than a payday is a way to feel some measure of power, control, and autonomy in a world where economic pressures curtail fully chasing our dreams with reckless abandon.” This likely applies well beyond the microtasker at the heart of their study.

That said, it is helpful to be reminded how the feedback workers who were required to make these calculations is not always present. Anwar and Graham (2019) note that many online workers don’t know the effect of their work, can’t see the networks into which that work feeds, or even what products they help create. Without transparency, and laboring in anonymity, workers can remain disconnected from any feelings of accomplishment associated with their contribution.


Anwar, Mohammad Amir, and Mark Graham. 2019. “Digital Labour at Economic Margins: African Workers and the Global Information Economy.” SSRN Scholarly Paper ID 3499706. Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network. https://papers.ssrn.com/abstract=3499706.

Berg, Janine. 2016. “Income Security in the On-Demand Economy: Findings and Policy Lessons from a Survey of Crowdworkers.” ILO Working Paper 74. Conditions of Work and Employment Series. Geneva, Switzerland: International Labour Organization. https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_protect/—protrav/—travail/documents/publication/wcms_479693.pdf.

Brawley, Alice M., and Cynthia L. S. Pury. 2016. “Work Experiences on MTurk: Job Satisfaction, Turnover, and Information Sharing.” Computers in Human Behavior 54 (January): 531–46. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2015.08.031.

Graham, Mark, Isis Hjorth, and Vili Lehdonvirta. 2017. “Digital Labour and Development: Impacts of Global Digital Labour Platforms and the Gig Economy on Worker Livelihoods.” Transfer: European Review of Labour and Research 23 (2): 135–62. https://doi.org/10.1177/1024258916687250.

Gray, Mary L, and Siddharth Suri. 2019. Ghost Work: How to Stop Silicon Valley from Building a New Global Underclass. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Gupta, Neha, David Martin, Benjamin V. Hanrahan, and Jacki O’Neill. 2014. “Turk-Life in India.” In Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Supporting Group Work – GROUP ’14, 1–11. Sanibel Island, Florida, USA: ACM Press. https://doi.org/10.1145/2660398.2660403.

Margaryan, Anoush. 2016. “Understanding Crowdworkers’ Learning Practices.” In . Oxford. http://ipp.oii.ox.ac.uk/sites/ipp/files/documents/FullPaper-CrowdworkerLearning-MargaryanForIPP-100816%281%29.pdf.

Martin, David, Jacki O’Neill, Neha Gupta, and Benjamin V. Hanrahan. 2016. “Turking in a Global Labour Market.” Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) 25 (1): 39–77. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10606-015-9241-6.

McAdam, Maura, Caren Crowley, and Richard T. Harrison. 2020. “Digital Girl: Cyberfeminism and the Emancipatory Potential of Digital Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies.” Small Business Economics 55 (2): 349–62. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11187-019-00301-2.

Zollmann, Julie, and Catherine Wanjala. 2020. “What Is Good Work? Perspectives of Young Workers in Nairobi.” Text report and accompanying slides. Nairobi, Kenya: The Mastercard Foundation. https://www.juliezollmann.com/are-new-jobs-good.