I’ve started a lot of projects before and they often peter out. The gift circle we’ve been having just had its ninth weekly meeting and is surviving and thriving. So I got to pondering last night and this morning why this project of ours worked better than some other projects we have tried…..
1. Focused and continued energy – We put a bit more spreading the word effort the first 5 or so weeks to ensure that new people heard about it and people kept coming. In previous projects I think we let off a bit on spreading the word before the project could properly coalesce.
2. Clearer and focused vision – In previous projects I think we get excited by a lot of new ideas and try to do much, and switch directions a bit. In this project too originally I wanted to try and do other things than the gifting, Matthew really liked the idea of sticking with this, and so by the second week we had decided to stay focused on the gifting part of the circle and that focused vision allowed us to have something to put our energy towards without fearing it was going to switch direction.
The vision also had a lot of energy behind it. The Village Network project Matthew started had created the energy that supported the gift circle. And I had been pondering for a long time how to birth a gift economy, and was also meeting a lot of people lately who had been birthing gift economy projects who had further inspired me to go for the gift economy idea.
3. Continued reflection and adjustments – The gift circle had quite a few kinks in it in the first 6 weeks (and continues to do so, but of a different degree) – quite a few I think which could possibly derail the project if we didnt fix them. However we had continued reflection, and different experimental attempts each week to test out what worked and what didn’t. So the circle works quite a bit better.
These feedback loops of reflection, innovation and testing are what allows systems to adapt.
4. Letting go at the top, and mentoring new people in – I think it was good that I did not continually try to be the main facilitator of the event. I worked with new people to share with them what I thought needed to be considered when facilitating, and what little tricks I had figured out, and then let them run the show. This empowered them, and it became more their circle. And it created a distributed intelligence in the circle.
5. The soil had good compost – The field in which this gift circle had been seeded with some other past attempts at projects – an attempt to create a village tribe, my gift economy attempts, Matthews local economy circle, Patrick’s goods and services redistribution efforts….. These projects formed a compost heap out of which this project grew.