37 ways to join the Gift Economy
by Beverly Feldman and Charles Gray
You don’t have to participate in a local currency or service exchange to be part of the cooperative gift economy. Any time you do a favor for a family member, neighbor, colleague, or stranger you’re part of it. Here are some ways you can spend time in the gift economy, where you’ll find fun, freedom, and connection.
1. Start a dinner co-op. Rotate among the homes of friends and neighbors for weekly or monthly potlucks.
2. Help a local farmer with the harvest in exchange for some of the crop.
3. Put up a traveler.
4. Hold twice-yearly sport supply exchanges so kids can acquire new skis and baseball mitts and everyone can try out a new sport.
5. Harvest wild or unwanted fruits and vegetables.
6. Grow your own, and give some of it away.
7. Share seeds and clippings from your garden – especially native and "heritage" species. Hold an annual plant exchange.
8. Organize a "non-consumption booth" at a farmers’ market or street fair. At the Charlottetown Farmers’ Market, the Environmental Chat Corner hosts discussions of environmental issues, sustainable building and landscaping, ecotourism, and community development.
9. Buy food or supplies in bulk and share with friends.
10. Form a home-repair team to fix your own place and others’.
11. Request help of someone usually regarded as needy.
12. Create your own rainy-day fund with your friends. One group pooled $1,000 each, which they lent to any in the group who needed it. The fund helped members survive a lost job, a stolen bicycle, and a broken arm.
13. Make space available to other people to grow food on your land.
14. Borrow garden space from someone who has extra land; give them,or a food bank, some of the produce.
15. Give co-workers neck and shoulder massages.
16. Offer to mentor a young person.
17. Ask a 12-year-old to show you how to get onto the Worldwide Web.
18. Throw a block party.
19. Show up at a soup kitchen and ask for volunteer help.
20. Rent out extra space to people needing a place to sleep, work, or just to get away, or exchange the space for yard work or baby-sitting.
21. Convert a duplex, apartment building, old nursing home, or seminary into a cohousing community.
22. Convert a barn or warehouse into a space for artists and start-up businesses.
23. Create a space for neighbors to keep and share infrequently used tools and extra garden supplies.
24. Start a baby-sitting or child care co-op.
25. Hold a monthly clean-up of a beach, park, roadway, river bank; get coffee houses to donate goodies.
26. Plant trees. Get the city to select and donate them.
27. Find a person on each block who will help neighbors get assistance when needed – from other neighbors when possible.
28. Share a car.
29. Or start a car co-op with various vehicles for different uses. Share expenses based on mileage.
30. Paint donated bicycles and place them in downtown areas with signs indicating they’re for anyone to use.
31. Become a foster parent, a ‘big brother’ or ‘big sister.’ Notice the ways everyone benefits!
32. Exchange lessons, for example, cooking for carpentry.
33. Teach a skill, like carpentry, and ask your students to donate time to others.
34. Adopt a stream or a highway to restore, maintain, and beautify.
35. Work with your neighbors to develop a vision for your neighborhood’s future.
36. Hold talent shows. Give kids lots of recognition, and everyone opportunity to discover their hidden talents.
37. Create your own money. Use ideas from YES! to start a community currency or skills exchange.
Special thanks to Beverly Feldman, Charles Gray, Sandra L. Kettle, Linda Pierce, and Steven Rauchman, for contributions to this section.
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