On creating a local gift economy part I

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.

3 thoughts on “On creating a local gift economy part I

  1. As a person who has often been short on financial resources, I can tell you that I agree wholeheartedly with the value of giving. One of the worst things about not having money is the sense of not being able to contribute. One of the things that I have found wonderful about Freecyle is that even though I may need one thing and be able to get it there when I can’t afford to buy it, I also get notices from people looking for things that I have, and I can contribute those things. So I have the opportunity to be generous and receive generosity.

    When I lived on the east coast, I volunteered at a local community center (The Guthrie Center) and we had a food program where surplus food from restaurants was collected and given to those “in need.” This was eventually replaced with a “community lunch” where anyone could come together and share a free meal. The difference was that it eliminated the part where a person is declared to be “in need.” Maybe you are not “in need” of food but you are “in need” of company or social interaction. It creates a more equal situation.

    We become so used to thinking of only our financial needs that we discount the wealth of things a person with a little money might have to share.

    I think it was Will Rogers who said “we’re all ignorant only on different subjects.”

    It’s also true that we’re all “in need” only in different areas.

    Thanks for the article.

  2. Hi, great idea! Clearly this is a birthing stage but I believe that, in the coming years, such a concept will grow legs and come of age. I wish you the very best of luck with this inspired program.

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