Sunday, March 5, 2023

Can We Create Social Change Without Money?

... what we will do for love will always be greater than what we do for money.  Nipun Mehta

Here is a video and transcript of a Ted-Talk by Nipun Mehta, a pioneer in 'sharing' and the true gift-economy (giving without thought of receiving). Nipun beautifully articulates the community-building, healing power of generosity. For those of you new to this site, here is a link to our Sharing Gardens site; our demonstration project based on the principles outlined in this video. Enjoy!

Can We Create Social Change Without Money?

--by Nipun Mehta, Oct 28, 2015

Can we create social change without money? I don't have a conclusive answer but just holding that question can raise some very interesting insights.

Since we're talking about money, I thought I'd start with a story on Wall Street. One of my friends was running a venture fund on Wall Street. They had a great year, and his boss calls him in to congratulate him and offers the proverbial blank check, "What would you like?" He looks his boss in the eye and says, "What I'd love is a minute of silence before all our group meetings."

Wow. The boss is thinking, "In a context where people are billing every three minutes, a minute of silence to do nothing? That's like wasting time." He refuses. "No. Anything else?" he asks. No. After sleeping on it, though, the boss comes back to say, "Look, if you really want that minute of silence, fine, I'll give it to you." They start meetings with a minute of silence. That minute turned into two to three to five minutes. Today, they do thirty minutes once a week, and even have their own meditation bell.

What was my friend thinking? On one side he could've asked for a monetary raise, but on the other side was very different kind of capital — mental quiet, connection, trust. He is thinking, "I don't want to meet people in a space of rush. I'd rather meet them with a bit more peace." It changed his relationship to himself, it changed his relationship to other people and certainly with his boss. And it didn't just stop there. It changed how everyone related to each other. It changed the whole culture of their office space. And that was something he valued more than the financial capital.

How do we broaden our lens to include alternative forms of capital? This is a question, this is a possibility, that we all have access to but in our current world today, we're very biased towards financial capital.

In theory, our society is supposed to balance all these biases. We have three big sectors. The private sector is rooted in extrinsic motivations like money, power, fame. On the other end, we have the voluntary sector that is rooted in very intrinsic sort of motivations. Compassion, knowledge, purpose. And then there's the public sector that is supposed to regulate between the two and work on both sides of the aisle.

This is how it's supposed to work in theory. In practice, though, the private sector starts to take over. In fact, it starts to dominate. We do have a public sector, but the public sector is increasingly being controlled by the private sector. There is a small voluntary sector, but these days, in the name of the sharing economy, even that is being commoditized. Courtesy of the "sharing economy", your lawn mower can get you six bucks a day, and you can rent out your Herm├Ęs purse for a hundred dollars a party and your dog for five dollars a walk.

When we have a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. If money is the only metric we have, we start to put a price tag on everything.

The problem with price tags is that we start to lose connection with the priceless. We start to lose connection with our intrinsic motivation.

What does science say about all this? Edward Deci at the University of Rochester has been studying incentives for over forty years. After thousands of experiments, he categorically asserts that the carrot and stick model doesn't work. This idea of a contingent reward — if you do this, you will get this — doesn't actually work.

For example, he studied people who loved to solve puzzles. Initially, they would solve puzzles just for the love of it, just for its intrinsic enjoyment. Then he started to pay them to do the same thing. So far so good. Then, at a later point, he stopped paying them. As soon as he stopped paying them, you would think they would return to that original state, right? It turns out, though, that they were no longer interested in solving puzzles at all!

What his research shows is that money desensitizes us. What science is actually telling us is this: Don't show me the money. When you're working with intrinsic motivations, financial rewards can backfire.

At the Max Planck Institute, researchers have been studying 18-month olds. These toddlers are just playing and all of a sudden they see a bunch of strangers who are putting clothes out for drying. In the process, they drop a clothespin and need help getting to it. The toddlers see that a person is in need, and immediately go out to help. They pick up the clothespin and hand it to the strangers. Now, at that age, they haven't yet been taught kindness or compassion but they're still moved to help. They're still moved to cooperate.

What science is telling us is that it's natural to give, that we're wired to care. In fact, not only is it guiding us to "don't show me the money", but it's saying to not offer any rewards at all. It's just not necessary.

The question we are left with is this — what designs emerge when we don't lead with money? What designs emerge when we lead with something subtler or something internal? We have many examples that offer insight into this inquiry.

Mother Teresa, of course, is an example that all of us know about. Someone purely motivated by intrinsic motivations. One of my friends, Lynne Twist, is a world-renowned fundraiser and author of a book titled, Soul of Money. She knows money. Many years ago, she had a very interesting conversation with Mother Teresa, whom she knew personally. "Mother Teresa, what's your fund raising strategy?" she asked. And Mother Teresa, with her big-hearted compassion, simply replied, "Oh, I just pray. Whatever I get is what I need."

It was simple. Here was a woman who had 400 centers in 102 countries and she's kind of like the CEO of this whole operation and she is saying, "I have no fundraising strategy." Or rather she is saying, "My fundraising strategy is to be rooted so deeply in intrinsic motivation that external security is not even a concern."

We have many modern examples as well. Linux rivaled Microsoft Windows purely with a distributed army of volunteers. Wikipedia did that with Encyclopedia Britannica. On Wikipedia alone, through those micro-edits that volunteers made, hundred million volunteer hours have been donated. CouchSurfing, similarly, allowed strangers to stay on each other's couches and disrupted the hotel industry.

As we look closely, we see an entire spectrum of motivations. It starts with extrinsic motivations on one side and goes all the way to intrinsic motivations. On the extrinsic side, there's money, power, fame; somewhere in between you have things like fun, learning, growth and purpose. Then on the intrinsic end of the spectrum, you have these very profound motivations like healing, forgiveness, inner-transformation and ultimately compassion.

On that extrinsic end, we have thousands and thousands of examples, but on the other side, on the side of intrinsic motivations, we don't have too many. Alcoholics Anonymous, for example, is a completely decentralized, distributed, and a never-monetized effort. It points towards the other end of the spectrum, but we have an opportunity to create a lot more examples here.

Back in 1999, we started ServiceSpace that rested squarely on the intrinsic end of this spectrum. It started with four of us, building websites for non-profits. Underneath the work, though, what we wanted to do was to anchor ourselves purely in the spirit of service. Over the last sixteen years, we've organized around three core principles that have kept us rooted in that intrinsic motivation.

The first one is that we are volunteer run. Many people look at that as scarcity of paid staff and ask, "How will you scale?" What we noticed was that we actually had an abundance of social capital. Imagine that you're trying to raise a million bucks. You could get it from one or two people, or a dollar from a million people. Which is stronger? A million people saying, "Yes, I believe in what you're doing. Yes, I care." The cumulative energy of that is profound. It's powerful. That's what we were experiencing with small contributions of time from many volunteers.

Similarly, our second principle is to not fundraise. When you don't ask for resources, you naturally feel a lot of gratitude for all that ends up in your lap. You learn to creatively work with what you've got, and you start to cooperate. Incredible synergies emerge, particularly when working with non-financial capital.

Lastly, our third principle is to focus on small. It wasn't about big things outside, but rather it was about the subtle on the inside. Being in the change you wish to see in the world starts to attune us to the subtle. The resulting awareness, in a very profound way, ignites our deepening understanding of interconnection.

With these three principles, ServiceSpace manages to create lot of impact in the world. We started by building websites for non-profits and we ended up helping thousands of efforts come online. Then we started building portals like DailyGood and KarmaTube. Every year we send seventy million emails, and not a single one of them has an ad -- or even a reference to buying something. It is purely non-financial.

Still, how far can we push ourselves while still operating solely on the strength of these intrinsic motivations?

We started this game of kindness called Smile Cards and it spread to over a hundred countries. In local communities we started these gift-economy experiments like Karma Kitchen where people are redefining what it means to engage in transaction. In living rooms around the world, Awakin Circles started. In all, more than half a million members were co-creating something that was engaging the attention of millions -- all without ever raising a single penny, and moved by love, service and our innate connection to each other.

It's not just that you can do a lot with this. We often take metrics from the extrinsic side of the spectrum to measure the impact on the intrinsic end. That puts a very low ceiling on its potential.

Operating with the power of intrinsic motivation alone fundamentally changes the way in which we relate to each other. It gives birth to a whole new realm of possibilities.

Karma Kitchen is like a regular restaurant, except that at the end of the meal, your check reads zero. It's zero because someone before you has paid for you and you get to pay forward for somebody after you. You are trusted to pay forward whenever you want. When people are just giving for the love of it, it changes the way they interact in that collective space. It's a profound idea that has worked wonders in seventeen places around the world.

What works, though, isn't the intellectual idea -- it's actually the experience. It's actually realizing that when you walk in, the greeter is a volunteer. The person who is waiting on your table, the person who plates your food, the person who's bussing your tables, they're all volunteers. That guy doing dishes in the back, who signed up to be on his feet for six hours, to just do dishes so you can have an experience of generosity, is also a volunteer. When you realize this, it begets a very different kind of generosity in you. A flow of deep compassion emerges. It's very natural.

Minah Jung was a student at UC Berkeley when she first volunteered at Karma Kitchen. She was so moved by the concept that she decided to study it. In fact, her research on Karma Kitchen and other gift economies became her PhD thesis. With eight different experiments, she poured through data with academic rigor, and came out with a seminal paper titled, "Paying More When Paying For Others." If you create a strong context, people respond to generosity with even greater generosity.

Richard Whitaker runs his art magazine in the same way. He was running it for fifteen years with the traditional subscriber model, and then he ran across ServiceSpace and said, "Wow, this is great. This is how I want show up in the world." He offered refunds to all his current subscribers and said, "From now on, the magazine will operate only offerings of gratitude."

Similarly, Thuy Nguyen is experimenting with this pay-forward model at her acupuncture clinic.

I want to end with this story of one of my friends, Uday-bhai. He's a rickshaw driver. By all traditional metrics, he would probably be a UN statistic on one of those poverty charts. He's a humble rickshaw driver but he has another kind of resource. He believes in love, he believes in people. Uday-bhai decided to run his rickshaw on a pay-it-forward basis. You sit in his rickshaw and there is no money meter. Someone before you has paid for you and you get to pay forward for people after you, whatever you moved to offer. He trusted that goodness in people, in the sixth largest city in India. Naturally, many asked him, "Is it working?" He says, "Here's my ledger. Point A to point B, point B to point C. Yes, some paid more, some paid less. On the whole, it evens out."

Then he adds, "Let me also show you this other notebook. This is where I ask people to write down how they felt sitting in my rickshaw." Imagine sitting in Uday-bhai's rickshaw and being completely caught off guard by the generosity of his process. This is not a billionaire doing philanthropy, but an everyday hero putting his entire livelihood on the line -- for love. It moves people to tears, people take vows for life. It's just deeply transformative and you can see that in all the notes.

Uday-bhai didn't have money, but he had a deeper kind of resource. Through that resource, through his belief in our innate generosity, he created a massive ripple that is certainly changing the world. He is redefining what it means to have capital. He's diversifying that portfolio of wealth. When you do that, when you really start saying yes to that idea, you are essentially saying, "It's no longer about the CEO, it's about the everyday Joe. It's no longer about fundraising, it's about friend-raising. It's no longer about price tags, it's about the priceless."

All of this sits on a single idea — what we will do for love will always be greater than what we do for money. May we all lead with love and change the world. Thank you.   

Nipun Mehta is the founder, a nonprofit that works at the intersection of gift-economy, technology and volunteerism. You can read more of his talks online.    
This video and article were copied from the Daily Good site, a free service that sends out emails featuring inspiring, uplifting news from the world free of charge and with no advertising. LINK

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Guaranteed to Make you Smile! - I Look to You

Here is a beautiful, joyous, sweet song performed by Masaka Kids Afrikana. Guaranteed to make you smile!


Living the Change: Inspiring Stories for a Sustainable Future

Finally! A solutions-oriented documentary on sustainable living. This inspiring video made me feel hopeful that there are people who are already living the solutions. Enjoy!

Living the Change is a feature-length documentary that explores solutions to the global crises we face today – solutions any one of us can be part of – through the inspiring stories of people pioneering change in their own lives and in their communities in order to live in a sustainable and regenerative way. 

Directors Jordan Osmond and Antoinette Wilson have brought together stories from their travels, along with interviews with experts able to explain how we come to be where we are today. From forest gardens to composting toilets, community supported agriculture to time-banking, Living the Change offers ways we can rethink our approach to how we live.

Watch their brand new film 'Together We Grow', along with many others at Purchase a digital download of Living the Change: Host a screening of the film:

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Building a Better World with the Power of Community - Together We Grow (Full Documentary)

Together We Grow tells the inspiring story of a thriving hub helping to build resilience into its local community by growing, sewing, repairing, sharing – you name it, Common Unity is doing it! 

“This beautiful film is the perfect antidote to the cynical narrative that says people are inherently selfish... This film will melt your heart. Guaranteed.” – Rob Hopkins, author; co-founder Transition Network 

Too many of our communities, here and around the world, are facing housing crises, food insecurity, social isolation, and more. In addition, the multiple impacts of the Covid pandemic and climate change are current and ongoing. How can we most effectively confront these challenges, and help our communities thrive in an economic system that leaves many feeling trapped in poverty? 

Founder Julia Milne and her team have created a completely replicable model for developing strong, connected, resilient communities – a model that could be put in place across thousands of communities in Aotearoa and millions of communities across the world. They’ve proven it can be done, this film was made to help them share the story. 

Host a screening of this film in your community!  

*Find out more about Common Unity* Website: 

Grow Kit: 



Building a Better World with the Power of Community - Together We Grow (Full Documentary)  

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

New Seed-sharing Library opens at the Corvallis Public Library!

The public book library of Corvallis (the closest city to where we live) is starting a seed-sharing library. Volunteers will also share basic gardening knowledge as well.

To read the full article, CLICK HERE

We hope this becomes a model for other libraries to follow!

Monday, December 19, 2022

Does Mint Oil Actually Repel Mice?


This video falls in the category of "natural methods of pest control that actually work"! Watch and be inspired!

Thursday, December 8, 2022

The Generosity of the Stone Soup Kitchen in Corvallis

Here at the Sharing Gardens, we've been growing fruits and vegetables organically since 2009 and, with the exception of a few years when we ran a CSA to cover expenses (subscription-based weekly food boxes) we have given everything away for free (on average, 6,000 pounds/year). 

In recent years there's been an up-welling of other groups making donations to Food charities in our area. These have come from other small-scale gardeners (besides us), surplus from Farmer's Markets, Gleaner groups, and contracts between the Pantries and farmers to grow staples such as potatoes and cabbage. There haven been many times in the last couple of years where there was so much produce donated to the main Food Pantry we serve that it was hard to find room on the tables for our offerings!

Not wanting our donations to go to waste, we have sought out other food charities who are still in need of our services. In 2022, the majority of our surplus - that which didn't go to feed the incredible volunteers who help make our unique model of community-garden a success - went to the Stone Soup Kitchen in Corvallis. We love sending them our food because they cook it into delicious meals that they provide free-of-charge to anyone in need...hundreds of meals a week! Here is an article that outlines their project. (Originally published in the Oregonian newspaper)

Soup kitchen battles rising food insecurity in Corvallis 

A man standing at the counter of a soup kitchen, silhouetted in the light of a window.

Rob Kirby, 51, prepares for Stone Soup’s annual picnic at First Christian Church on Aug. 2, 2022. Housed and unhoused neighbors, firefighters and police officers are invited, but mostly Stone Soup’s unhoused diners typically show up, Kirby said.Terah Bennett/High School Journalism Institute

After Rob Kirby, 51, prepares a record-breaking 180 meals at Stone Soup Corvallis, a soup kitchen, he says he feels accomplishment, but also an acute sense of despair.

“Why are the numbers so high?” he said. “Does the larger community of Corvallis know how pressing this need is and that it’s just growing?”

Stone Soup, the volunteer-run nonprofit where Kirby is a lead cook, has experienced a nearly 40% increase in demand this year compared to this time last year. The soup kitchen, which operates three locations out of church kitchens and one drive thru, served a record 42,000 meals in 2021.

By the end of July 2022, the organization had served over 8,000 meals more than it had by that time last year.

Sara Ingle, president of Stone Soup’s board of directors, attributed increasing demand for meals to income inequality and high housing costs in Corvallis, both of which she said were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over a quarter of Corvallis residents live in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 estimates. Data from the city show Corvallis is also Oregon’s most severely rent-burdened community, with about 37% of residents spending over half their income on rent.

Ingle, 75, joined Stone Soup six years ago and became its board president in 2019.

“It hasn’t been at all what I expected, or anybody expected,” she said. “I’ve changed a lot. Stone Soup has changed a lot. The world is different.”

A person is seen cutting fruit in a kitchen. Outside, a menu is posted.

Stone Soup volunteer Rob Kirby, 51, prepares food at the First Christian Church kitchen for the soup kitchen's annual picnic Aug. 2, 2022.Terah Bennett/High School Journalism Institute

Stone Soup, which is turning 40 this year, provides free meals to anyone at its four meal sites. Each meal includes an entree, soup, a serving of vegetables and fruit, and a dessert, along with a vegetarian option. Ingredients for meals are provided by the Linn-Benton County Food Share, as well as donations and purchases.

Over 300 volunteers were sent home in February 2020 as kitchens closed due to COVID-19. Stone Soup offered catered to-go meals until reopening after Thanksgiving that year.

Stone Soup resumed serving their own diners and also began preparing meals for the county to distribute to homeless encampments where inhabitants were still quarantining. The organization continued serving a higher number of meals as the pandemic progressed and opened a temporary drive-thru site on Northwest Third Street. The drive-thru will close Aug. 27 after running out of funding.

Meal demand has surged while pandemic relief efforts have dissolved. Ingle said she is concerned that the Third Street location closure will further strain the organization, while the city clears homeless encampments without providing “facilities and service they need to live with dignity.”

“There is no plan or intention on the part of the city, that I am aware of, to improve life for those who are unsheltered,” Ingle said.

A metal shelf overflowing with cans of beans, corn and baked beans.

Stone Soup’s bulk goods, including beans and mashed potatoes, stored inside the St. Mary’s Catholic Church pantry on Aug. 3, 2022.Suzan Nuri/High School Journalism Institute

Benton County took steps to address homelessness in 2021, including converting a former motel into a shelter and providing emergency housing vouchers. A Corvallis spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ingle hopes to open a standalone location for Stone Soup, something the organization attempted in 2018 but failed to accomplish due to community opposition. She attributed the pushback to neighbors not wanting homeless services near their own homes.

Ingle said community opposition and increasing meal demand will not deter Stone Soup from feeding people.

“We have flexed and bent and done everything we could during the pandemic and we will continue to do that,” she said.

Kirby agreed, but said he wasn’t sure how the organization would meet increasing demand.

Stone Soup is so popular because of its “low-barrier” services, where no one gets turned away, regardless of their behavior or circumstances, Kirby said. Diners include college students, elderly residents and recipients of federal food benefits. Most, however, are people experiencing homelessness.

Volunteer Marjorie McClellan, 65, said even with federal and local aid, homelessness and food insecurity in Corvallis have worsened. McClellan said she used to prepare 40 to 60 meals per shift with leftovers. She now serves 120 meals per shift and consistently runs out of food.

Kirby said Stone Soup will find a way to continue meeting the rising demand, but more is required from the city, county and neighbors to address underlying issues.

“Together as a community, are we willing to do the hard work of addressing the needs that are leading people to be hungry?” Kirby said. “These diners aren’t some outside source, they aren’t people unlike any of the rest of us. They’re just people who have a circumstance that has put them in hungry situations.”

-- Terah Bennett, St. Mary’s Academy

-- Suzan Nuri, Beaverton Early College High School

This story was produced by student reporters as part of the High School Journalism Institute, an annual collaboration among The Oregonian/OregonLive, Oregon State University and other Oregon media organizations. For more information or to support the program, go to