The Pro-Am term – a contraction of Professional and Amateur – was originally coined to refer to sport competition mixing professionals and amateurs or to players evolving in an intermediate status between those two categories. It then extended to scientific collaborations between amateurs and professionals in disciplines, such as astronomy, where it has been traditionally easier for amateurs to make a valued contribution.
Today Pro-Am has become a major socio-economic trend. It is estimated that in mature economies 30 to 40% of people are Pro-Am at something. My friend Emma, who works as a chemist in the energy sector, is a cupcake pro-am (see pic). Other colleagues are pro-am mechanics. Between the rubbish and the advertizing, YouTube is full of amateur performances of professional standard. Three factors have directly contributed to this trend:
1. The open-source spirit that enables knowledge access and experience sharing (my kids look for solutions on YouTube for any technical problem they might face or competence they want to acquire such as riding a skate board, changing wheels, etc.)
2. The development of crowdsourcing as a way to explicitly value contributions from anyone who dares to participate;
3. The rise of the sharing economy, whereby people derive an economic benefit from a specific talent they have, whether cooking, doing small repairs, giving music lessons, or any form of DIY or teaching.
The sequence of these three factors shows that what started as knowledge sharing has given rise to a new form of economy, enabling Pro-Ams to start their own small-scale business.
In its quarterly Soonoscope mag (in French) soonsoonsoon provides a case in point with the example of aliveshoes.com. What started as a platform to customize your shoes is now offering the possibility to designe shoes – either on your own or with crowd contributions – and put them up for sale.
And there is more to come: in its quantitative analysis of socio-economic trends, soonsoonsoon highlights how the ‘ambition’ value is gradually migrating from the traditional spheres of power towards the Pro-Ams. With the means to turn their passions and talents into business ventures, and the ambition to break free from the grasp of the conventional economy, Pro-Am as a socio-economic trend is soon to become the new entrepreneurship.
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Yann Cramer is an innovation learner, practitioner, sharer, teacher. He’s lived in France, Belgium and the UK, he’s travelled six continents to create development opportunities with customers or suppliers, and run workshops on R&D and Marketing. He writes on www.innovToday.com and on twitter @innovToday.