Gift circles are places where people sit in circle, share their needs, and help each other as a gift (Gift Circle FAQ). A community grows as a result. Since we launched this project 6 years ago in San Francisco Bay Area, we have watched it grow virally and spread around the world. Gift circles have been held in the USA, Canada, Britain, Denmark, Hungary, Portugal, France, Holland, Japan, Bangladesh, India, Australia, Israel, and South Africa.
One of the key insights we have learnt during this time is that while a gift circle can do well on its own, having it be part of an ecosystem of other circles and structures can really help it flourish. This mutually supportive ecosystem is analogous to the idea of a permaculture guild where different plants support each other).
Other structures that help form this ecosystem are:
Generosity party: this is a party where people can perform services for free. At a gift circle people make connections to get services. At the party they can actually then get them. In Eugene Oregon they alternate one week gift circle, one week generosity party.
Community center/ yoga studio: the center provides a physical space to meet and ready inbuilt audience. The center in return gets more community forming at its place. Our gift circle in the San Francisco Bay Area formed a symbiotic relationship with the community center it was a part of.
Free school: this is a list of free workshops which people put on themselves. In a gift circle several people often say they want to learn same thing and someone else says they can teach or facilitate. Then you can put that class or circle on the free school calendar, and also attract an audience from the free school crowd. The free school in return gets more workshops and circles in its offering.
Hoffice (www.hoffice.nu) is someone’s home which others are invited to come cowork at for free. Some of the services that come up in the gift circle could be done during hoffice hours. Hoffice people can also use the gift circle to get help with their projects. In Copenhagen they have a gift circle and a hoffice. They do some of the gift circle organizing in the hoffice and one of its members there setup the www.giftcircles.info portal for all gift circlers.
Facilitator improv is a process where everyone can facilitate the group in a variety if experiential exercises after tuning into the group energy. It can be used as an icebreaker exercise before a gift circle. It can also be a standalone group where people can lead exercises that may have come up as needs in a gift circle eg massage, learning to whistle, or helping someone brainstorm where they could live. https://opencollaboration.wordpress.com/…/facilitator-impr…/
An online gift economy social network can help different gift circles connect with each other in a town. Needs that are not met in a gift circle can be put on online. Www.kindista.org is one such network developed by Benjamin Crandall . In Eugene Oregon the gift circles community also uses Kindista. Kindista is also available and free to use wherever you are in the world.
So if you are starting a gift circle you might look for some of these other structures to pair up with, or also form a group that births these other structures also. A starter circle is group that’s dedicated to birthing a whole variety of structures and circles. It shares insights on how to find location, spread the word, maintain a circle. And its part of a worldwide network of starter circles. (https://opencollaboration.wordpress.com/2012/04/06/how-to-change-the-world-through-circles/)