What is the best way to run a gift circle?
Is it for one person to be in charge of facilitating the circles, organizing the space, and spreading the word about the circle? Or is better to have the whole circle organized in a more non-hierarchical, emergent, participatory manner?
Advantages of hierarchy: When you have one person being in charge of the circle, they usually have a clearer idea of what to do, they hold a vision. There is a clearer sense of responsibility usually, and when people have a problem they know who to turn to.
Advantages of non-hierarchy : The intelligence of how to run the system is more distributed amongst all its members and so the circle becomes more resilient. If one person becomes sick or leaves the circle the requisite intelligence to run the system is still there. In a non-hierarchical system it can be easier for everyone to feel more ownership on the circle, more ownership can lead to people taking more responsibility and putting more effort into making the circle work. If a non-hierarchical system is running efficiently a lot more can be done because it taps ino latent power of many more people.
Our gift circle started because Matthew, a member in our community had been creating and seeding a village network project in our community. So there was a bit of interest in how we tap into all the services and resources in our community. And it started because I decided to organize and start this gift circle. I facilitated most of the first circles we had. This last week I went away for thanksgiving and someone else ran the circle. I think its a good experience for different people to facilitate the circle. It helps others get a sense of the myriad of little things that make a circle work or not. And different people try different things to make the circle work. So we build a sense of the best practices. There is a sense that the circle is becoming somewhat non-hierarchical.
The interest from everyone means that marketing is easier, people are telling their friends.