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How We Survive: The Currency of Giving


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Mali gift economies

Gift economies in practice in Mali Credit: Photographer Andy Lin

This past holiday season, charitable organizations were hit with the troubling combination of increased need and dwindling resources. But in hard times, people find ways to take care of themselves, and each other.   On this edition, we continue our series “How We Survive”, a look into how communities around the U.S. are responding to the economic crisis. This week… people meet each others’ needs, without charity, or even exchanging a dollar.


Danette Truso, Yvonne Pugh and Al Miller, Sobrante Park Time Bank participants; Paul Butler, Sobrante Park Time Bank co-administrator; Craig White, Center for Participatory Change staff member; Coumba Toure, Ashoma Fellow with Institute of Public Education; Shilpa Jain, former Shikshantar worker and gift economy participant; Larry Harvey, Burning Man Founder; Skip, Burning Man Elder Camp member.

Contributing Producer: Rachel Wallis with Other Worlds

Time Banking: A Community’s Route Around Poverty

by Megan Martenyi

During a recession, times are tough all around. But for many low income communities across the US, getting by has been a struggle for quite some time.   Take Oakland, California for example, where unemployment and security have been a concern since before the housing bubble burst.  That’s why one East Oakland neighborhood  – called Sobrante Park – decided to try a different economic model in their community.  Making Contact’s Megan Martenyi reports.

Appalachians say Community Support is More Important than Charity

by Tena Rubio

A study released by The Center for Participatory Change in North Carolina says horizontal giving – or informal giving based on already existing family or friend relationships – happens all the time among low-income and marginalized communities in Appalachia. The non-profit talked with over 100 Hmong people, African Americans, Latinos and white Appalachians, who said overwhelmingly that horizontal giving played a more significant role than vertical giving, which came in the form of charity from outside the community. Making Contact’s Tena Rubio talked to Craig White of the Center for Participatory Change, about their report.

‘Gifting’ in Mali and India – A Way of Life

by Rachel Wallis of the Other Worlds Collective

Advertisements fill the airways with messages to show love through the purchase of a diamond or a video game.  Yet for many people around the world, giving happens all the time. The Other Worlds collaborative, a network of activists, artists and media producers, seeks to amplify the voices involved in gift economies. Rachel Wallis, media coordinator for the group, has more about a practice in the West African nation of Mali and beyond.


Burning Man’s ‘Gift Economy’

by Andrew Stelzer

No commerce is allowed at Burning Man.  It’s one of the most unusual economic structures in the world–a ‘gift economy’.  Making Contact producer Andrew Stelzer’s been there, and sat down with Larry Harvey, the festival’s founder, to find out how it all works.

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Burning Man Founder Larry Harvey

by Andrew Stelzer

The full length interview with Burning Man founder Larry Harvey, discussing the roots and details of how the festivals’ ‘gift economy’ works.


For More Information:

Burning Man
San Francisco, CA

Center for Participatory Change
Asheville, NC


The Gift Economy

Giving Within Communities:
CPC’s Research on Horizontal Giving

Horizontal Philanthropy:
The Importance of Giving in Low Wealth Communities

Other Worlds
Albuquerque, MN

Rajasthan, India

Time Banking Sobrante Park
Oakland, CA

Articles, Blogs, Films, Reports, Other

‘Sweat Equity / In this East Oakland community time really is money’
by Rob Baedeker,  SF Gate

‘Reclaiming health: Residents battle to overcome health inequities
by Suzanne Bohan and Sandy Kleffman
Contra Costa Times

‘Oakland fences off Tyrone Carney Park, home of brazen drug gang
by Jim Herron Zamora, Chronicle Staff Writer

Author: Radio Project

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