Enthusiasts were once derided as trainspotters or anoraks; now they are emerging as an important new social group called ‘Pro-Ams’, according to research commissioned by Discovery Networks Europe.
The Pro-Am Revolution is published by Demos on Tuesday 30 November. The report defines Pro-Ams as amateurs who pursue a hobby or pastime –which in many cases is an all-consuming passion – to a professional standard. Pro-Ams are involved in ‘serious leisure’, which requires specialist knowledge and a major time commitment.
As people live longer with active retirement years, or downshift mid-career to improve their quality of life, the authors predict that ‘serious leisure’ will become a growing part of our lives.
“Pro-Ams are a new social hybrid who force us to rethink they way we think about work and leisure time,” say the report’s authors, Charles Leadbeater and Paul Miller.
“Their activities blur the traditional definitions of professional and amateur. In recent years a variety of rather derogatory names have been used to describe real enthusiasts, including nerds, geeks and anoraks. We think a better term to cover all these kind of activities is Pro-Ams.”
The Pro-Am survey of 2189 adults conducted by MORI in June 2004 revealed a nation of committed enthusiasts. When presented with 20 popular categories of hobby or pastime, well over half of regular participants in most categories said they had ‘good skills’, and that rose beyond 75% for some activities.
Pro-Ams are more likely to be men than women; they tend to be well-educated people with annual household incomes over £30k. Pro-Ams are evenly split between part-time and full-time workers, but people who don’t work are far less likely to be Pro-Ams.
The report uses a working definition of Pro-Ams as people engaged in a regular activity, at which they say they have good skills. The survey suggests that as a percentage of the total adult population in Britain:
- 18% are Pro-Am gardeners
- 6% are Pro-Am photographers
- 2% are Pro-Am alternative therapists
Traditionally committed amateurs have made a significant contribution to society, from lifeboat men to army reservists to the Samaritans. However Pro-Ams are now making an impact in less traditional disciplines.
For instance, Pro-Am astronomers have made significant contributions to our knowledge of the universe. And Pro-Am software programmers who are part of the ‘open source’ movement are providing the only real challenge to Microsoft’s dominance of the personal computing market.
The authors conclude that government should invest in people’s hobbies as a way to build communities. The report makes a series of policy recommendations aimed at encouraging Pro-Am’s contribution to their communities and helping children develop Pro-Am activities at school. Recommendations include:
- Companies should introduce Pro-Am days for employees to engage in activities and volunteering, with a designated national volunteering day;
- The DfES, DCMS and DTI should jointly organise a national programme for 16-21 year olds who want to spend a year on social Pro-Am activities;
- Organisations that have been given responsibility for promoting learning and training within public services like the Teacher Training Agency and Centrex should enable Pro-Ams to support the work of professionals.
Notes to editors
- The Pro-Am Revolution: How enthusiasts are changing our economy and society is published by Demos on Tuesday 30 November 2004. Copies can be downloaded from www.demos.co.uk/proamrevolution or ordered from Central Books on 020 8986 5488. The projected was supported by Discovery Networks Europe, the main sponsor, and Orange.
- Demos is an independent think tank with a long-standing interest in changing attitudes to work and leisure.
- Discovery Communications, Inc. is the leading global real-world media and entertainment company. DCI has grown from its core property, the Discovery Channel, first launched in the United States in 1985, to current global operations in 160 countries and territories with one billion cumulative subscribers.
- Charles Leadbeater is an author, government advisors and Demos associate. His last report for Demos was called Dream On. Paul Miller is a senior researcher. His last report was called Disorganisation.
- MORI interviewed a representative sample of 2,189 adult members of the British public. Interviews were conducted face-to-face between 24-29 June 2004, and the data are weighted to the known population profile.