Manifesting Gift Economy
To know about the projects of ServiceSpace is to first understand the values underneath it. To that end, Tao of ServiceSpace is a published essay from 2007, this impromptu talk at Stanford in 2008 shares stories in video, and Generosity 2.0 is a published article from Winter 2009.
In April 1999, ServiceSpace formally started with the idea of gifting our time. We built websites for nonprofits. Couple years later, we took on a for-profit dot-com (PledgePage) and a non-profit in India (ProPoor) and realized that we actually had institutional capacity. Soon, as websites matured, we stretched our capacity to include vertical portals -- like HelpOthers.org that spreads kindness. We also started gifting Smile Cards, our first entry into tangible goods. As our ecosystem evolved, in 2008, we adopted a magazine that profiled conversations with social artists -- works & conversations. Later that year, we also started running a restaurant (for Sunday lunches) called Karma Kitchen. As ServiceSpace became an incubator for "gift economy" projects, it became clear that this wasn't the work of an organization, but rather an ecosystem with many interconnected parts. Today, with 300 thousand members, the ServiceSpace ecosystem sends out 50 million newsletters every year and attracts millions of users worldwide.
Perhaps the most powerful thing about all this is that it works without the triggers of financial capital. In its place, we have social capital, synergy capital, and perhaps even some subtle capital that we can't define. It would be arrogant to say that we have an understanding of how it all has worked and continues to work, but what we can say is that we feel fortunate to be part of this emergence.
Five Emerging Ideas in the Ecosystem
Here is a recent email about five new/bold ideas that are emerging from the ServiceSpace ecosystem ...
- Service Space: the idea here is to create a platform to fulfill micro-volunteer opportunities around gift-economy projects. Uniting all members of various CF programs, this ought to open us to a new realm of synergistic possibilities and empower lots of local action from Wednesdays to Karma Kitchen to community events.
- Trustosity: expanding on our $100 kindness idea contest, we are hoping to pave the way for a trust-driven micro-philanthropy paradigm. If all goes per plans, we will be giving away $20K (in $100 amounts) by the end of year and expanding on our beta-site. Bread for the Journey chapters -- like the Berkeley one that Sam, Afreen and Kate are piloting -- may become a container for this.
- Gift-Economy Book: in response to thousands of people who look to our gift-economy values with, "So, how does it actually work?" query, we are working on book with inspiring stories, insights, and best-practices from our projects. Paul, the former editor of CS Monitor and Pulitzer winner, is spearheading the effort with Berrett Koehlers -- a really cool publishing house in SF. Let's see how we can shake up the publishing sector with some generosity! :)
- Nonviolence Portal: expanding on the wild (and unexpected) success of HelpOthers.org, we are hoping to build another container for content that amplifies nonviolent action in the world. Professor Nagler's Metta Center in Berkeley, Deepak Chopra's ANH, and Barbara Fields' Seasons for Nonviolence are likely to be the early co-creators in this effort. Tangential to this effort is DailyGood's Open Source Positive News effort that has already attracted many prominent content creators. This will be the first time that CF will actively lead a coalition effort, and sprinkle seeds of gift-economy into existing institutions. :)
- cShops 2.0: to contain our ever-expanding series of physical offerings (like Smile Cards, works & conversations magazine, Peace Chains, Meditation booklets), we are building an online gift-economy store! More than a clearning-house for "stuff", it will focus on creatively building a relationship between the producers and consumer before the goods are offered. While we don't know the exact formula to use -- and perhaps we never will -- this promises to be exciting experiment of building a generosity "marketplace" where they can gift their jewels of goodness. :) Our first new "product" will be none other than the popular Smile Decks!
Let's see how it all unfolds.