After consulting full-time on a "joyful value exchange" (aka
gift economy) basis from 2004-2016, Tree is presently shifting back
toward a conventional fee structure. She says, "As described
below, in 2004 i felt a calling to explore operating fully in 'gift.'
It has been a very fulfilling run, providing me with
sufficient resources to live on through these years. To
everyone who joined and participated in the experiment, thank you!
find my soul is now moving in other directions; i said all
along i would continue operating on a gifting basis as long as i felt
genuinely called, and i do not wish to duck that by acting
from habit or inertia. Sometimes we need to let go of old
ways to make space for the new, so i hope you will
support my continued journey as i once again experiment, this time with
charging fees for my work. Understand there is still
flexibility for negotiation—in the end, the most important factor for
me in accepting work requests is, 'Is it in my heart to do this job at
this time or not?'"
this page is maintained for historical reference, because
it outlines one way of operating effectively on a gift basis
which inspires others, and because the resources it points to remain
useful for all those who envision an economy restructured to
more fully serve life.
& the Gift Economy
How Are My Rates Set?
I am currently operating on a "joyful value
exchange" (by JoVE? :-)
basis, meaning i do not have any set fees for my work. I ask
groups to pay
me an amount that feels good and right and fair to them, that they
can afford, and that they can give joyfully. The same request applies
to individuals attending public workshops. Group process work provides
my livelihood, and i trust the groups i work with to honor this and
provide the support that makes it possible for me to continue offering
Why Do I Do It This Way?
According to "Wikipedia"
(which is a fine example itself) a gift economy is
an economic system in which participants give away things of value to
the shared benefit of the community. Examples include food
banks, volunteer fire companies, and giving rides to
hitchhikers. I see Sharing
Economy as a broader term that may also include, for
example, time banks, crowd-funding, and even local currencies.
In the summer of 2004, i encountered three
different influences which inspired me to move in this direction.
First, i met a friend who had lived outside the monetary economy for
over seven years, refusing not only to work for money, but also to do
work exchange or barter; basically refusing any kind of commodified
relationship with another humyn being. Second, a personal growth
workshop offered regularly at an intentional community near my home
started doing their workshops on a donation basis. Third, i went on the
Superhero ride, which involves a group of people coming together
through word of mouth, inventing superhero identities and costumes,
then bicycling out into the world (capes flying gaily over bike
trailers filled with food and camping gear) for a month to find people
in need of loving service.
Collectively these experiences resulted in a
commitment on my part to engage in my work on a gift economy basis for
one year. That year ended Sept. 1, 2005, and having earned enough to
live on, i expect to continue operating this way into the indefinite
future. In 2013, having gotten more
involved in wider Sharing Economy explorations, i shifted from calling
my approach "gift economy" to
calling it a "joyful value exchange," in recognition that i am engaging
direct reciprocity for money rather than purely gifting with no thought
I feel called to this way of working in
the world as a way of serving life. The society i live in now fosters
a culture of consumption based on scarcity, while pretending the
world has infinite resources. I believe that the society of the future,
if there is to be one, will be the reverse: nurturing a culture of
sharing based on abundance, while recognizing nature's limitations. For
me, shifting to a sharing economy is a way of expressing my
love for, and faith in,
that future world—one small step toward birthing it into being.
"At the deepest level, there is no giver, no gift
and no recipient—only the Universe rearranging itself."—Ronald Arms
For more information on Gift Economy . . .
leading resource: Shareable.net.
Website, newsletter, research reports, bookstore, and tons more than i
can do justice to here.
. Their slogan: "A world community and
economy where access trumps ownership."
Practing Law in the
Sharing Economy by Janelle Orsi. This new
book from ABA press offers a comprehensive overview, bringing together
such creations as B corps, time banks, creative commons, crowdsourcing
for capital, car-sharing, couchsurfing, and more into one coherent
vision of the new economy that is reshaping how we live. The new
sharing economy calls for revised rules and a host of newly skilled
practitioners, and Janelle is helping people travel that road.
Appropriate to (and readable by!) an audience way beyond lawyers, this
book is for anyone helping create new transactions or the organizations
to support them. (Includes a short
section by Tree on consensus.)
Tree's current favorite book on the
coming gift economy: Sacred
Economics: Money, Gift & Society in the Age of Transition,
by Charles Eisenstein. In a speech entitled "Confronting Empire"
(delivered at the World Social Forum in 2003), Indian author Arundhati
Roy closed with this: "Another world is not only possible, she is on
her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." That kind of
describes how i felt reading Charles Eisenstein's book. Not only does
he sing the virtues of the gift economy in a way so filled with
everyday examples of what is/has been/and could be that i can nearly
taste it, he also contextualizes the whole examination in a story both
spiritual and practical, the arc of our transformation from the age of
separation to the age of reunion. Delightful, inspiring, grounded.
to Start a Gift Circle, by Alpha Lo. From the blog "Trust is
the Only Currency."
websites to support localized gifting: Kindista (started in
Oregon), and StreetBank
(based in the UK). Both support enrollment from anywhere in the world.
Salwen family moved into a house half the size, sold their
old house and gave half the money to charity—wow.
Sreedhar, social entrepreneur and workshop facilitator in
India, writes openly of his early steps into the gift economy.
Fernando's Lentil As Anything restaurant in Australia has
been operating for 10 years with no prices on the menu, presently
serving 1,500 people/day. Here's another
video with him explaining how his history led to his later
choices. For a newer example in the United States, see Cafe 180 in Denver.
Aumatma Shah runs Karma Clinic in Oakland, California.
wonderful short video.
Some people are living without money through a
combination of gifting, self-sufficiency, barter and more. See Mark
Boyle's story in the UK and Heidemarie
Schwermer's in Germany.
Austrian millionaire Karl Rabeder is giving away
every penny of his £3 million fortune after realising his riches were
making him unhappy. Read the story here.
For one vision of how a gift economy might emerge
from a neighborhood, see How
to Disappear, a beautiful online book associated with
Riverbank Neighbors in Chicago.
In Estonia, the Bank
of Happiness emerged as a response to economic troubles.
Called dama, gifting is an
established way of life in Mali.
In 2008, the Gift
project carried works of art as gifts from local artists of one town to
local artists of the next town along the route—a 3,000 mile journey.
Siberry (aka Issa) distributes her music using
"self-determined pricing." Read
about it in this story from NPR.
Gifting and the Gift Economy by Tom Atlee
The connection between the Occupy movement
and Gift Economy, from Carolyn Elliott over at Shareable.net:
The Poetics of Occupation: On Gift Logic
Two interesting essays on the concept and
contemporary practices from Dave Pollard's "How to Save the World"
blog. The first
post provides a good, short overview of the subject. The
second, called "Can
We Make the Gift Economy Work?" talks about major challenges
to it and what to do about them.
by Gifford Pinchot
High-Tech Gift Economy by Richard Barbrook
to join the Gift Economy
by Beverly Feldman and Charles Gray in YES! Magazine
Articles at Future Positive:
The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic
Life of Property. Random, 1983. The classic book on this
Charles. Sacred Economics: Money, Gift & Society in
the Age of Transition. Evolver Editions, 2011.
Fantastic—a deep study of money and economics that grounds the
transition to a gift economy in the deeper story of the Great Turning
from the age of separation to the age of reunion.
Mauss, Marcel. The
Gift: The Form and Reasons
Exchange in Archaic Societies. Trans. W. D. Halls.
Reclaiming the Gift Culture anthology published in English
from India, available for free download, 121 pages.
Mark (ed.). The
Question of the Gift: Essays Across Disciplines.
Sahlins, Marshall B. Stone Age Economics.
Tree Bressen supports groups of people to
function together effectively. In the past two decades, she
has worked with members of more than a hundred organizations:
nonprofits, businesses, government agencies, cooperative living
associations, faith congregations, activist troupes, educational
institutions, conferences, and assemblages of every sort. Her
ardent belief in purpose-centered design guides each step of the work,
returning at each choice to the core—“Why are we doing this? What is
needed here?”—and responding. She nurtures the emergence of
collective vitality, wholeness, and alignment of action with intention.