What Is Gift Economics?
Gift economics is a different way of interacting with money and understanding what something is “worth.” In a Gift model, goods and services are not sold as they are in a market model of economics. Rather, they are given freely with no requirement of an exchange. We believe that the lessons and teachings we give and receive in our workshops are priceless.
At the same time, we do have needs as an organization operating within the current economic and social structures. Therefore, all participants in our community workshops are offered an opportunity to support our work. No one is required to give, and no amount is considered to small or too large.
Check out a short TEDx talk on the Gift Economy from our friend Nipun Mehta:
What It Means for East Point
Gift Economics means that we do not charge a fee for our work. Working on this model means that sometimes, our workshops can end up costing us money. For us, a commitment to the Gift model is also a leap of faith. We operate on faith that if our work is something that the community needs, then our community will come together to sustain it. If our work is not needed, we do not want to take resources away from the many other worthy projects that are constantly emerging.
To ensure the sustainability of our work, please consider making a donation to support not only East Point Peace Academy, but the many communities with which we work.
Core Principles of Gift Economics
Pure generosity means giving without any expectation of some reward or exchange. The giving that happens is not part of a transaction; rather, it is part of the transformation of our culture and relationships. We give because the act of giving benefits and brings joy to both the giver and the recipient. In this way, all programs offered by the East Point Peace Academy is offered as a gift, regardless of a participant’s ability to pay.
In a market economy, all goods and services are assigned a monetary value, and therefore creates a financial barrier. When things are given out of generosity, there is no barrier.
Assigning a monetary value on all goods or services not only diminishes the true value of our gifts, but also creates a barrier to access. We are committed to practices – financial and otherwise – that allow for the full participation of as many people as possible.
In a market economy, because a monetary value is placed on goods and services, not everyone is able to access them. In a Gift Economy, all are welcome regardless of their ability to pay.
Unlike the market economy which encourages autonomy and self-reliance, the Gift system is a reciprocal system that acknowledges the interdependent of all people - what affects one directly affects all indirectly. A Gift system only functions when we are all giving in support of each other. The responsibility to meet our needs are held collectively, as opposed to each individual being mandated to pay some set amount.
Because giving in a market system is transactional and motivated by a desire to receive something (either payment or a particular good/service), the exchange only benefits those directly involved. In a Gift system, because giving is voluntary and made out of the desire to support others in a “pay-it-forward” approach, that gift will go onto support those you may never meet.
Rather than living with an assumption that constant growth is always positive, we make all of our decisions with intention. As Gandhi once said, the world has enough for “everyone’s needs, not everyone’s greed.” This means having conversations about how we want to relate to money: how much we need, who we take money from, what kind of growth we want, etc.
In a market economy, the constant growth mentality of “bigger is always better” is pervasive, even in nonprofits. We take a different approach, and do not always assume that having more funds and growing larger as an organization is better.
As we try to move towards a needs-based economy, we acknowledge that we live in a world of abundant resources – enough for all beings not only to survive but to thrive. The false sense of scarcity has to do with how we define “resources” and how we are taught to measure success and safety. The earth is abundant if we value, honor and respect all the resources that are available to us: water, air, soil, relationships, wisdom.
The current market system teaches us that resources are finite, and we need to battle each other to hoard them so that we feel safe. The more we can remember what resources are actually necessary for us to thrive, the more we will realize that we live in abundance, the less we need to rely on a material and financial system made up of falsehoods.
We acknowledge that a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach to economics can perpetuate disparity. We work to honor the story, ability and capacity of each person in the room in order to create equity. The Gift system only works when those who have the capacity to give more than their “fair market share” give more than those with less capacity.
The market economy conditions us to always be on the lookout for the “best bargain,” to pay as little as we can and get the most “bang for the buck.” This approach does not always meet the needs of all parties. The Gift system looks at the ability of all parties, and reframes us to think about collective responsibility to meet everyone’s needs.
We work to counter a culture of security and secrecy with trust and transparency. In order to empower each person to make decisions that are right for them, we are committed to a culture of radical financial transparency.
Unlike a market economy where personal and organizational finances are held as tightly guarded secrets, East Point shares our finances with our community on a regular basis, uploading our current financial statements to our website each quarter.
Rather than relying on strategic plans and fundraising strategies, we rely on relationships and a faith that if our work is meant to exist in the world, than our community will come together to sustain it. Rather than living in a scarcity model and pouring resources into fundraising, we try to live into the abundance of our world and focus our resources on our work.