Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Next Economy

What I am sooooo excited about is the “next” economy or the “gift” economy. I was introduced to the concept of a gift economy by Dr. Aumatma Shah, who runs a holistic health care clinic in Oakland called the Karma Clinic. In essence, she offers her naturopathic services as a gift, only charging for remedies and supplements. It’s not free though, it’s a gift, there’s an important distinction. The energy inherent in “free” is take. The energy inherent in “gift” is, “This is an act of love and service.” Dr. Shah explicitly says in order to heal it’s important to give away what has been given. One cannot hold on tightly to the gift because the energy stops there with them. Does that make sense? It’s like what I wrote about a few months ago when because of the generosity I’d been shown re: my kickstarter campaign I felt like being generous myself. The gift doesn’t have to be money, it can be anything.

The reason I love the next economy or the gift economy so much is because it’s based on these four principles:

  • Moving from transaction to trust,
  • Consumption to contribution,
  • Isolation to community,
  • And scarcity to abundance.

Wow! Talk about my ideal world! Some people may scoff and say it will never work, but let me tell you, it does. My business coach, a big proponent of the next economy, said he’s not going to charge me for his expertise because we’re friends and he wants to be of service and help me be of service. Instead, he wants me to help out when and where I can. Let me tell you, when he said that to me a big weight lifted off my chest because I’m not in a position at the moment to pay him. What I love so much about this economy model is it emphasizes our relationships and not material goods. I’ve been receiving so many instances of this lately, not just with my naturopath and business coach, but my friend who’s a photographer. I had some pictures taken of me at the beginning of the year but I feel so radically different I want new author photos. And my professional photographer friend said he’ll take them free of charge and to buy him dinner or something. Huzzah!

What gets to me is the kindness that has been shown to me. That there are so many people who are willing to help me, who understand money is not everything, and really live that way. It’s truly a gift to be surrounded by so many loving, talented people who are willing to share their services with the world. In my business coach’s blog he sums up the next economy thusly:

"Human enterprises will be designed in service to all human needs while benefiting the earth and all life. The goal of doing business in the next economy is to be of service to life while doing what you love – finding 'work' so full of joy and purpose you cannot really call it work."

That is precisely what I want and I’m incredibly inspired because I’m seeing evidence of it around me. People who are knowingly and unknowingly incorporating service into their business. People who understand our work lives and our personal lives shouldn’t be so radically different, because after all, we’re still people and deserve to be treated that way.

I dream of a world where we give what we’ve been given. A world where we conduct business with kindness, generosity, and love. A world where we take care of each other and focus on the infinite possibilities life has to offer. A world where we value relationships and respect each other. A world where we understand there doesn’t need to be a “business as usual” because there can be a new way of doing business.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.


  1. You may be interested in a book I just re-read, "The Dispossessed" by Ursula K. Le Guin (it's from PTJ's sci fi honors class at AU!) It contrasts a socialist/anarchist/free utopian society, where there is no money and everyone shares what they have, with a capitalist "profiteering" society. The anarchist world isn't quite the gift economy you're describing, but it has some parallels that I think you would find interesting (and of course I'd love to discuss it with you if you did read it!)

  2. Do you know the work of Genevieve Vaughan? She has been studying and writing about and basically living Gift Economy since the 1980s, and gathering together people, especially women, to talk about this in all kinds of places around the world. She has made links between gift economies and indigenous economies, also based on gift. Also, between gift economies and matriarchal (matrifocal) societies. All of her major works and a lot of videos and links are online at .

  3. @Frieda: I do not! Thank you for passing it along. =)

  4. You folks might be interested in an older publication called, "The Gift", by Edward Hyde. Margret Attwood had it as required reading for her students when she was Writer in Residence at the University of Toronto.