We had a number of experiments over the years in attempting to create a gift economy in our town before the gift circle was arrived at.
There are a number of social design issues in trying to come up with getting a gift economy going. How do you get people to contribute? How do you get goods going to where they are needed?
Heres something I initially wrote and then Russell rewrote..
One of the key insights to birthing a culture of generosity is to create a social system where people can meet each other’s needs without partitioning the group into a segment that only receives and a segment that only gives, in contrast to the model of a soup kitchen or homeless shelter where there is a dualistic divide between giver and receiver. So the first design principal to create such a social system is for it to take the shape of a circle. By forming a circle people can become both receivers and givers. The second design principal is that people is to create a platform where people express their needs. This way people can discover what gifts they have to offer that they may not have realized. This also allows for the deepening of relationships as people make themselves vulnerable by saying what they need, because people’s needs often reflect their overall life situation and expose the troubles they’re going through. The third design principal is to have people do this face to face in the same room. This face to face interaction encourages the formation of human relationships, allows people to get an overall understanding of the flow of gifts and needs, and taps into the innate desire to reciprocate that might otherwise be muffled by the disconnect of an online or otherwise virtual interaction.