With the prospect of growing our activities to larger scale come questions about the ruggedness of an open "gift flow" idealism on which they are conceptually based. Can this sort of personable, generous, non-binding approach to sharing value hold up on larger projects and longer timelines? Can it sustain healthy working relationships amongst a fluctuating team of contributors, creating exceptional results for the 'end user' and wider community? Let's get on the road to find out!
First, a useful discernment, between two modes of group productivity: collaboration has a more coordinated, purposeful aspect, while co-creation is an open, artful, spontaneous happening. You could also tag these respectively as convergent and divergent attitudes to procreation. They are not exclusive of one another in a given scenario, but it helps a great deal to have everyone on the same page about what's in play by whom and when!
As a design arts collective, we are explicitly in the act of melding and merging these complementary means for exceptional outcomes. We take charge of practical challenges towards particular results, while instilling an emergent touch of craft and character, a creative gift that lends unique and contagious qualitative value that is not typically figured in to the bill of a commercial transaction nor thwarted by the groundless abstractions of gallery art pieces...and we solicit unspecified donation in response.
Tell someone you're going to inaugurate a pay-what-you-want un-contracting construction firm, and you will find skeptical replies. Yes, the good-faith model of "free" commerce has been tested in cafes, music releases, thrift stores, and shareware. How do we carry that approach the level of large concrete undertakings for which hierarchical organizing and rigid legal/financial protocols are tailored, without falling into similar ego-driven business-first frames of mind?
It could look something like a tribal revival, building coherence as a social organism within a cultural field, converging on singular ambitions in the way that great architecture and ritual have come to prominence throughout the past. It takes time, and careful reinforcement, often appealing to 'higher' powers. It extends beyond the immediate setting, and draws on inspiration and alignment from a broad affiliation of peer groups. But it must begin, somewhere….
Start small sounds about right. Do good work in modest increments for / with people you have some prior bond by. Make clear offers and requests, take notes throughout the process, and invite feedback regularly. Solicit awards and recognition at regular intervals as work progresses, such that mutual trust and benefit is established and nurtured. Incoming donations are recorded and redistributed through a liaison or project steward, with value added through contextual story and expanding scope (attaching character and intention to the gift everywhere that it changes hands). The wider community may then view and respond to any gift event via reputation credit, social buzz, in-kind support, general good will, and the spark of new creative opportunity.
How do we negotiate and reckon these arrangements with peers who are not of their own used to thinking and acting thus? Let's take a recent example. I just finished installing a flagstone patio and flowerbed for a kindly neighbor. The process began with a conversation about her wants, and my capacities. She wanted a front entryway upgrade, and had cash money on offer for it. I was excited to do some modest landscape work in my vicinity to build some reputation points and grow my skill set for stonework, in a setting that appealed to me and would invite appreciation by others.
With a sense of the type of services that I could offer, we turned to benchmark compensation rates as a point of reference to cue ourselves in to the type and quality of exchange that would be proposed as a mutual intention - stopping short of concrete expectations. Recall: contracts are for contraction, while donation = expansion. In some explicitly convergent scenarios, the former will serve, but to the detriment of a more co-creative atmosphere and influence. It changes the game substantially. We do employ an estimate-like process as a scaffolding for ongoing gift-based conversation, but wish to avoid any reduction to 'zero point' accounts balance of contractual fulfillment, in order to keep the spirit of gift alive. In this case, money was put forward to support the installation of an appealing outdoor space, based on an understanding of desirable ends and means. The conversation went well, and the results speak highly - they point to something.
Why bother though, shifting the game like this on ideological grounds--is it largely an indolent fantasy, an escape from accountability--sly 'tax' evasion?! What's the big breakthrough here, really? It is about empowerment, and the rising call for regenerative culture. It is an opening, an expansion, into new social coherence and well-being that come through the circulation of generosity and the conscientious exercise of free will (an Creator's strengths).
How does this work in sprawling modern society? Not so well right off--it emerges within community, and the strongest of these are localized, of modest size. Scaling up from there may generate a gnarled nested fractal ordering across membranes of social, cultural, economic and geographic diversity, or perhaps a lighter, patterned meshwork overlain on the rigor mortis of destitute bureaucratic effigies.
The idea of an wholesale peer donation ecosystem is not so far fetched. First of all, let's stop short of making anyone 'accountable' via direct shareholding. This is entirely and always opt-in. Our system is one of trust: trust via personal recognition and feedback, reinforced by the confidences of critical-mass collective awareness and intelligence.
It is gauged to avoid irregular buildup of resources, or any shortfalls of raw production. We look to register healthy value creation, to make visible and credible much of what is frequently taken for granted or discounted: from raw stocks (sunlight, water, minerals, genetic efficacy) through increasing spirals of accumulation and reputation - the elaboration of story. Patterns of such story come to represent the collective will and care (governance) of the community.
At a surface level, these patterns reveal the greater shared wealth of an environment - yet they are not directly a credit or promissory note. They become a stock in relationship, a resilient claim on future acknowledgement. Our accounting, on the value creation side, consists of a simple formula for relative contribution. These register as a reference proportionality in the final product - but not an explicit entitlement. Gifting is a p2p conversation, not a mechanical distribution. From the 'point' person, shared rewards extend out according to personal or collective preference.
This is the start of trust building, and generosity. It is a surrender to vulnerability within a greater whole. Everything is fair game for the record, the intention for generating wealth, creating value, places our attention on the positive results, our successes. Anyone may withdraw from the relationship honorably, without upset. Adjustments are made to planning and output on the fly, in keeping with best intention.
Great communication is crucial, and takes some practice to get beyond the master/slave default habituations, introducing new players to the paradigm experientially, defusing frustrations that may arise during tense working conditions and complex endeavors. There are potential hardships: liability in case of damage, injury, or faulty work, according to the old rules? Onerous. Long-term security, and insurance? Tentative. Satisfactory redistribution of scarce currencies? Delicate.
Gifting requires thought, care, intentionality. Commerce is streamlined and definitive, it's intellectually convenient and generic but not generative. Money serves as a proxy for authority, and helps to implicitly structure relationships based on who owes whom. It's a vector for executive function, a prerogative, it makes people move in accordance with the wealth-holder's wishes. But it also sets up a vicious cycle of parsimony and cunning, a contest for maximum withdrawal and withholding.
Money and wealth are only tentatively linked - there's much more to the story of what matters, all that can not be bought. Natural or cultural wealth, for example, which we may appreciate as gifts by passing onward in even richer form, or depreciate in a way that nudges us towards greater risk of disruption, and bankruptcy. Climbing up a rising spiral route takes effort and perseverance, leading to greater stores of opportunity through shared access, flexible accountability, a verdant story field....
VEDA is in this game for all-around wins: a new level of integrity, abundance, and resilience within and between connected regional habitat nodes. We have the resources and know-how to create a far more "well-off" local environment, if that becomes an explicitly shared value over and above basic monetary accumulation.
Right now our focus is on giving good work wherever it seems welcome and worthy! As we gather a record (and a reputation) for these contributions, we become the target for reciprocity, richer relationship, and widespread attention. We develop a public profile, through which anyone may reach out and make a request or invitation of us. Should we have tangible goods on offer, we may solicit a pledge form or 'gift application' from prospective recipients. Then it is our privilege to respond sincerely, creatively, and catalytically from that inventory--propagating the signal of our own highest interest on the carrier waves of common values and aggregate trust.
Cool stuff happens oddly enough, in concert!