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"Do we need Money & what are the Alternatives?" harvest

Many thanks to the twenty participants in the first World Cafe conversation on "Do we need Money & what are the Alternatives?" In a wide ranging two and a half hour event, participants from the USA, South America, Europe and Japan discussed three key questions in small groups, moving from reflections on our personal relationship to money through thoughts about the rewards of work to a wider discussion about alternative possibilities.

We three facilitators - Amy Lenzo, John Rogers and Leander Bindewald - were very happy with the event and the level of engagement around the World Cafe tradition of deep, generative questions.

If you took part in the event, please share your impressions and reflections here.

Following is a summary of notes taken by participants in a shared Google Doc 'harvest' of contributions:

ROUND ONE SMALL GROUP CONVERSATION What is your relationship to money?

A family history of and shame around it. A personal history of struggle, as an entrepreneur. a sense of the shadow side of money, and a wish to transcend it. Seeing that shift happening now personally.

Issue is more about relationship than money itself. If you are part of a mutual support relationship with a group of people you have much less need for money.

An evolving relationship. Scarcity issues, and guilt around those feelings due to good fortune. wonderful experiences around what money can do--an exchange of energy, love, and values.

Haven’t had a lot, but haven’t struggled either. Comfortable. Retired and have a surplus--feel wealthy.

Been in groups that work without money. Look for that kind of relationship. To be with people who are looking after each other and share values, so we need less $. All looking for a way to live with less $ (or less of the neg impacts of money ($/£/€, etc.), or more of a gift relationship rather than a market relationship. Use $ more locally.

My relationship with money currently is that I would love to see it completely disappear. I have been recognizing that it is not the root of evil, but the root of all, and I mean all of our current tragedies. It ruins relationships, and spoils our air, water, and soil. It is no longer a means to an end, but has become an end in itself for way too many of us. Our true nature is one of giving. We are in evolution, maybe to the point that we don’t need anything in return when giving. When we are close we can see what we are doing. We are connected globally. Match resources to needs without a profit. Cannot see our impact globally. Fear of not having enough drives the greed.

I would love to see the word “economy” become obsolete. It connotes to me a certain expectation of something in return. Can we find a way to get beyond that? I absolutely believe we can. If we are able to come to a heart centered community, where we do what we love, and we give because we want to, what would it matter anymore what we “get out of it”? If we develop a cooperative culture, competition will become all but obsolete. Maybe I’m a dreamer, but I know I am not the only one.

My relationship with money: I love money, but money doesn’t love me!

I think there needs to be a balance between money and the other forms of exchanges. It’s a challenging relationship for me… I go between this belief of “I have what I need (abundance)” and being stressed out about not having any money. It’s a weird space to be in. Been taking an online course about money using something called The Work (Byron Katie) to explore my own limiting beliefs about money.

Don’t know if I love money. I need it. Maybe that’s the problem. If I were more affectionate toward money, maybe I’d have more of it. Not really into the mindset of abundance. Basic orientation is the contrary. Often a hindrance to what I want to do. Gets in the way of what I really care for. Maybe what I care about isn’t something I can get paid for. Do some things that generate money so I can have time to do the things I really care for. Constant struggle. Can’t imagine life without money. We’re so dependent on $$$.We have to buy everything with money.

The disparity between rich and poor: this can’t be good. Social projects and their impact cannot be measured with money. In community (before) people had each other and could rely on other people for their needs without money. But today, especially in cities, we really don’t have this kind of interaction anymore. There are some places in Japan that continue to operate with limited money.

My mom taught me: “Money is a comfortable way of living unhappily.” It’s just a necessary, if perhaps unpleasant fact of life.

My relationship with money is transforming. I have spent 40 years accumulating dollars and I am now preparing for the final chapters and the disaccumulation of my resources. A large portion is going to the farm.

I personally have enough to live a comfortable life. And I see the damage money does to our society, it is more an obstruction to getting things done than an enabler, unless you happen to have a lot of it. My opinion is that it mostly has to with with how money is perceived and the current money system we have creates that perception. Unbalance between money value and societal value. Example: aid work vs corporate lawyer.


Share a story about your work and exchanges, both paid & unpaid, and how they reward you.

Wife made main income, while I took care of kids and worked on a book. Cooking, washing, etc. Private regenerative work--typically of women. “Upsetting me…” Not my plan or identity. “Have to restart something valuable.” I know what I’m doing is important, but to be recognized, you need to be paid!

Transition into retirement, after having been very active in work… Organised a conference without funding. 4 months. Fabulous event. Heartwarming for organizing group. Small amount of money was donated. Mostly it was the time of 250 participants. Reciprocity.

Made transition to being of service in a different way. Learned about Gift Economy. Read Charles Eisenstein. Whenever there was an opportunity to do some kind of work of this kind, I would take it… trusting that the universe would take care of me. Not making decisions about what I would do based on where I would make the most money. What are the exciting opportunities where I could learn the most? Much of the work I did in 2010 and 2011 I didn’t get a lot of money for… but it’s led to a lot of collaboration in the last few years that have become economically generative, and also were amazing learning experiences and satisfying forms of service. Believe we can initiate things without having to raise the money first. I believe that now it IS possible to make money by doing this kind of work. The sense that unpaid work isn’t as “valuable” is bosh! We need to move past that!

Reciprocity--everyone’s time is valued equally. Want to trust in abundance. Having a hard time. Doubting that we can be paid to do what we love. Amanda Palmer’s Art of Asking TED talk--a source inspiration when we have such doubts. Civic engagement--experimenting with paying people for their time and contributions, so they value their participation more.

Story of Diss Community Farm, which started out using money, a paid grower, helped by volunteers, but that broke down. Now it is smaller, only using volunteers, and is much more stable.

Finding great satisfaction in conducting municipal Councillors’ consultations with constituents while introducing both to the deeper conversations possible via Art of Hosting practices (e.g. World Cafe and Open Space) - all at a very small fee. Been a volunteer at local synagogue in NY area. Change of leadership, large financial challenges. Inherent fixed costs: building maintenance, full-time staff. How to understand value people are putting on this community? Are people getting money’s worth for membership? How to avoid consumerism model? Contributing to a larger whole. How does time he invests compare to money he puts in? On the one hand, research shows people highly motivated to work as volunteers; on the other hand, people need to be paid for things in many cases. Social capital runs into trouble when mixes social & monetary thinking. Some voluntary organizations reach a critical point of needing to pay someone for vital tasks e.g. bookkeeping, co-ordination, communications - especially as they mature.

Eight years ago corporate training and development team. Witnessed worst of corporate sleaziness. Joined a staff of a small nonprofit college. Cutting pay in half, wanted to be in place not harming but contributing to greater good. Liberating for me. Also director of community theatre, made very little money if any. Amazing emotional and psychological payoff for collaborative work of creativity!

30 years in construction last decade in ministry. Ministry work is telling to me. Construction is very up and down, not a steady stream of money. Enjoys buiding and loves the appreciation from clients of something well built. Great reward, generally compensates nicely. Ministry: Did speech yesterday on Interfaith. could feel energy from audience. Gratis. REward was knowing I can touch somebody. When I am in my bliss I see my “work” as service.

Left behind corporate world and climbing the career ladder to return to school and get involved in consultancy and community work has been more rewarding. Not driven by making money. Also left corporate world and new worlds have opened up. Lives almost without money simply by doing things for people and getting favours in exchange. Happy with this structure. Mix of paid/unpaid experiences. Has exhilarating experiences with group processes.

Currently doing PhD. Higher education environment is not conducive to group work. I personally have a really amazing feeling about most of the work I do, as most of it is unpaid, and most of it is networking and connecting people with each other. I have a very small part time tutoring job, that I basically do because I love and miss teaching, certainly not for the money as that is negligible. I only buy food, and items necessary for my survival. I avoid buying clothing, and anything that I can avoid buying. I belong to a buy nothing group, but that seems to be slow starting.

Alan Watts video (What if money was no object?):


What possibilities have you experienced, heard about, or can imagine for different economies - in your own life, the life of your community, nation, and/or globally?

Some experiences among participants with local currency, time banks, “slow money.” Looking for ways to get municipal (tax) money and other sources like social impact bonds for investment in local businesses & farms. Economic development efforts are at many levels e.g. focus on job creation, others with additional systemic purposes.

How do we set up an alternative global financial system? Bringing environment and social change movements together. People who share these values can create an embryo of the kind of economy we want, using money, new currencies, gifts. A small scale prototype that could lead later to big changes. Imagining something that lasts for a short time. Party/festival/art. 100s of people, not huge. A “collaborative action festival.” Doing some collective task. Pop-up economy that supports it all. Gift basis: give what we want, all get back. Unlock the power of groups. Those who needed to get paid did so.

Another dimension to this is reputation. It is what creates stability, self-organisation, symbiosis. There are little prototypes all over. Different currencies, gift economies, software to support them (independently), and also another dimension: public reputation. The latter creates stability. A world that is inherently collaborative. Reputation IS a currency. Especially useful if “things go wrong.” Stops exploitation and manipulation.

My husband and I belong to a trade organisation. Trade dollars. Local exchange trading systems. No constraints on different systems fall back into wealth and power.

Man made currencies can be changed. Money is not a law of nature. Hard to change perceptions about money. Making sustainable profit so we can regenerate ourselves and creating sustainable, economy, environment. “What kind of money / currency do we need in order to support us in living together the way we really want to?” And not: What kind of lives does money us to lead (and the people who hold it in their hands?

What might the natural world tell us about economy? My thoughts are that I haven’t thought a lot about this topic but that I learned a lot from listening to others. The time bank I think is a great way of implementing alternatives while taking small steps because I think money can’t be just done away with overnight. The risk is that it’s replaced with another ‘evil’.

Alternatives not interest based: If one has 100 units today, one will still have 100 units three years from now. If one is at -100 units today, one will still be at -100 units three years from now. This provides for less pressure on those with less, and decreases gains on currency hoarding.

Money is a belief system: If we don’t believe in the dollar anymore, we must replace with an alternative economy. LETS: Local Exchange Trading System, many of these systems are in place globally.

Rethink the philosophy of currency: Is money a means to an end or an end in and of itself? What is the social value of money?

Eradicating poverty doesn't pay like corporate profits Service-based systems: work better in smaller communities or systems, scaling up requires more traditional economies. The ideal economy is one without any form of money. It’s something like family. This would be the ideal society.

The predominant idea now is that WE NEED MONEY. We have come to an extreme. Of course we cannot get rid of the money all at once but we have to expand the possibilities.

The idea of recreating community is very difficult for me. Looking for different ways… it’s quite amazing that there are those who have made their fortune and look for particular ways for money to go but it becomes a difficult process of equalizing the disparity between those making a lot and those making very little.

There needs to be a way of exchange. A greater way of doing that money can move in a different way. Greater exchange between the “have’s” and the “have nots”. Too much of it is on “catch as catch can”. Needs to be more formal. Not the expert to know how something like that would work.

“No More Throw Away People” by Edgar Cahn. When he was talking about time banking it’s not just exchange… it’s me saying “I need something from you.” Working with people who were given no value because of their situations were unable to work (maybe never were able to work) appeared to have less value. Interested in how time banking changes that experience. W

e are putting a price tag on everything now and we have to stop doing that. We are always calculating which community is more valuable to us and so forth. This kind of calculation is something we have to get rid of. Any form of currency (token) will not solve the problem.

Shared a little about gift culture and the concept. Some great resources for this are Charles Eisenstein’s Sacred Economics and this video of Charles talking at the Santa Fe Time Bank (Living the Gift) is one I’ve always loved: I love the way he explains how living in gift culture we are building and strengthening our bonds and the way that when we use money it often breaks the bonds between us.

One little experiment that you can do to experience Gift Culture (in a small way) is something called The Shop of the Open Heart. I think you can download the information about how to host this here:… This was the facebook event that we made for this back a couple of years ago: Write me if you have questions about this:

I would love to see the word “economy” become obsolete. It connotes to me a certain expectation of something in return. Can we find a way to get beyond that? I absolutely believe we can. If we are able to come to a heart centered community, where we do what we love, and we give because we want to, what would it matter anymore what we “get out of it”? If we develop a cooperative culture, competition will become all but obsolete. Maybe I’m a dreamer, but I know I am not the only one.

Economy means “care of home.” That’s not so bad, is it? What if we had an economy that served Life, rather than life being seen as something that we exploit economically to make money?


What does nature have to teach us about economy - can we look at the systems in nature and possibility move our economy to a sustainable system, which is is not now, in a way that nature does it?

How nice to meet people from all over the world with different backgrounds, and yet sharing such a similar vision and focus. The remark about what can we look for in nature - one thing to look at is the nature of greed, which I don’t think actually exists in nature.

What causes greed? I believe it’s caused by scarcity… if we can minimize scarcity, we can also minimize greed. We view the world through overlapping windows - we can each only see part of the picture. So much of this work has already been done - more than any of us can ever read. One of the challenges is to harvest the work that has already been done, and avoid the damage that comes from competition between “solutions”.

Diversity is “Trump”.

Next step I’m interested in exploring is greed, or the shadow side of all this - I think we need to delve into this, not to get lost or hung up in it - but I need to explore it more to understand how to walk a more balanced and healthy line myself.

There is a resonance in this field… what has come up here are a lot of common questions and shared learnings that happen in this field.

The issue of “trust” is central. Will I be taken care of? Will I be exploited? Will others not do their part? This goes to questions about our basic nature. Who are we? Greedy, competitive, self-serving individuals, or compassionate, cooperative, deeply interconnected parts of Gaia? Charles Eisenstein has some great words about this in The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible:

“More for you is less for me” is a defining axiom of Separation. True in a competitive money economy, it is false in earlier gift cultures in which, because of widespread sharing, more for you was more for me. Scarcity conditioning extends far beyond the economic realm, manifesting as envy, jealousy, one-upmanship, social competitiveness, and more. The scarcity of money, in turn, draws from the scarcity of love, intimacy, and connection. The foundational axiom of economics says as much: human beings are motivated to maximize rational self-interest. This axiom is a statement of separateness and, I hazard to say, loneliness. Everyone out there is a utility-maximizer, in it for themselves. You are alone. Why does this seem so true, at least to economists? Where does the perception and experience of aloneness come from? In part it comes from the money economy itself, which surrounds us with standardized, impersonal commodities divorced from their original matrix of relationships, and replaces communities of people doing things for themselves and each other with paid professional services. As I describe in Sacred Economics, community is woven from gifts. Gifts in various forms create bonds, because a gift creates gratitude: the desire to give in return or to give forward. A money transaction, in contrast, is over and done with once goods and cash have changed hands. Each party goes their separate ways. The scarcity of love, intimacy, and connection is also inherent in our cosmology, which sees the universe as composed of generic building blocks that are just things, devoid of sentience, purpose, or intelligence. It is also a result of patriarchy and its attendant possessiveness and jealousy. If one thing is abundant in the human world, it should be love and intimacy, whether sexual or otherwise. There are so many of us! Here like nowhere else is the artificiality of scarcity plain. We could be living in paradise."

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