Martin Farrell

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The Generosity Tree

Live with generosity ... receive with gratitude ...

This is work in progress: see 'last updated' and 'emerging themes and ideas' at the bottom of this page

Imagine the day when giving and receiving with gratitude and generosity are at the core of the economy, alongside the economy based on money. People are ever more willing to give, and ever more open to receive.

Those who receive, feel gratitude and are more willing to give forward. Giving money is good, giving your time is great. Fuelled by gratitude, the spirit of generosity spirals throughout civil society. Giving is, indeed, 'twice blessed'

There are already many rich offerings of alternative community currencies and timebanking and alongside these, the intention of the Generosity Tree is to inspire ever more acts of generosity.

As we develop this prototype, we have some working assumptions

• Generosity is innate in all human beings, in all places and at all times

• It is expressed in different ways in different cultures

• It is abundant, there is no limit to it

• When we act generously, we increase our own happiness and the happiness of the other.

• Giving and receiving sustains the ‘core economy’ (the unpaid care economy) which complements and reinforces the money economy.

So far, we think that these are the conditions which, when in place together, will are most likely to inspire intentional acts of generosity. Whilst some of us need more encouragement to be generous than others, we will all be inclined to be more generous when:

  1. the recipients of our generosity express gratitude / we receive thanks / we know we are appreciated

  2. we see others acting generously

  3. we know our acts of generosity are noticed by other people whose opinion matters to us

  4. we hear about positive outcomes of our act of generosity

  5. we know we are part of something bigger than ourselves, (beyond our ‘echo chamber’)

  6. we know we are playing a part of something bigger which is advancing local, national and/or global common decency ,

  7. we believe that we, and those whom we feel a connection with closer to us or further away, will all benefit from our acts of generosity and expressions of gratitude

  8. we focus on what we already have, rather than dwelling on what is missing in our lives

  9. we hold it to be true that everyone has something to give, everyone is invited to contribute what they can, everyone receives, as far as possible, what they need

We all have choices

Gratitude Choosing to be generous is easier if we have already chosen to see what we have, more than what we do not have. Ego or eco If we have more of an ‘ego system’ perspective we see reciprocal acts coming back to ‘me’ and those close to me; if we have more of an ‘eco-system’ perspective we will see the benefit coming back to ‘we’, of which I am a part.

To be self-governing, sustainable and safe, the twin powers of generosity and gratitude need a set of rules and principles which speak of the conditions for generosity and at the same time contain but do not constrain.

As we develop these our thinking is informed by many innovators including Elinor Ostrom’s eight principles for ‘managing a commons’ and Kate Rawarth’s 'Doughnut Economics’

Mechanism/s to deliver these conditions which will inspire generosity
Right now, we are thinking about what these could be and are getting going with a simple website. We know this is not enough but it's a start. We know that to grow well, the seeds of generosity need to be rooted in communities of interest and locality.

We welcome allies As disruptions continue grow, we know we are juste one of a vast number of initiatives which create sustainable and equitable social systems worldwide. Our initiative will explicitly choose collaboration over competition.

This is how it can work. There will be many who are willing to start the virtuous spiral of generosity and doing so in their own way. Someone wants to give, because they have a skill or ability that they would love to be asked to express. I use myself here as an example of how the Generosity Tree prototype could work. Mine is but one of many ways - there are a great array of ways to be generous.

I give what I love to give: group process facilitation and / or coaching, for people at the front line of civil society organisations, especially in situations of struggle and difficulty.

  1. You want someone to facilitate a complicated meeting, conference or other gathering which will bring healing or positive change. Or maybe you need one, two or a series of coaching sessions to get through some 'wild waters'.

  2. Call or mail telling me what you need and we discuss, with no obligation, what service I can offer you.

  3. When we've agreed what I’ll do and how many hours or days we anticipate will be needed, I'll confirm that gift of time in writing, as I would if you were a client paying money.

  4. When I have delivered the facilitation or coaching service we will speak or exchange mails to confirm you have received the gift as promised. (Maybe I'll send a 'innervoice' as a symbol of what I have given and you have received]

  5. You consider how generous you'd like to be and, considering the skills and abilities you have within you, decide what and how much you would love to be asked to give forward to someone else. The more gratitude you feel, the more you give. Generosity grows.

  6. In due course, you note your act of generosity (our the Generosity Tree site if you like) so that your generosity can be celebrated and everyone can see how generosity is growing.

The Generosity Tree is one of over 300 initiatives around the world in ‘u.lab 2x’ which is 'An Accelerator for Systems Transformation' incubator programme which was offered by the Presenting Institute from February to May 2021. 'Building transformation literacy - that is, the capacity to transform the status quo - at all levels of scale may well be the number one leadership challenge of our time.'

There are many details we are still working out. Our best guesses as of today are below

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Basic FAQs about how it works

I don’t think I or others in my organisation have any skills to give
You have. You really have. Think about it. Talk to friends, colleagues, talk to me. You definitely have.
Can I make a gift of time to anyone?
The intention of the Generosity Tree is to make UK and international civil society stronger – always a good thing but even more so now that there is lots of need and not much money. To do this I ask you make your gift to people or organisation/s which are building a civil society - which is a decent, fair and sustainable way of living in which we all live together well.
How do we know how much time will be needed for the gift I receive for example if I want the facilitation or coaching you give?
If I was providing a service for you for money we would discuss and agree a price; with this we’ll do the same to agree the value of my gift simply measured in time.
Do I have to give forward the same amount of time as I received from you?
No. This is about generosity and gratitude. You may like to see the time you have received as a benchmark, but how generous you want to be is your choice according to your sense of gratitude. That's for you to know.
Over what period do I have to give time forward?
You decide. For example, it may be 3, 6 or 12 months. It's up to you when and how to express your gratitude

Slightly more complicated FAQs about how it might work

What about the time I have already given as a volunteer? Does that count?
Our intention is to make civil society even stronger than it is already. So the gift you make will be something new, something you had not already done when you received the act of generosity .
If I make the agreement for your gift in my capacity for example as CEO or Chair, is it a personal obligation or an obligation for my organisation?
In the same way as you would commission a service and commit your organisation’s money, you may want to check that you have the agreement of colleagues to receive this act of generosity. It may be that you and some of your colleagues feel gratitude for the gift you have received so you and also they may want to give it forward. That would help spiral generosity throughout civl society.
Can someone else give my time for me?
Yes they could. However the gratitude you feel is for you to gift forward, but it could be through them.

More FAQs about gifting my time forward

What about the person I give my time to? Do they have to agree to pay time forward too?
They don't have to. But they may feel gratitude and want to. Talk to them about the Generosity Tree intention of strengthening civil society by spiralling generosity and gratitude.
What if I forget how much time I've given? Does that matter?
This isn't a fixed contract to give forward. Its for you to sense your gratitude and to know you have gifted enough time forward.
What if I don’t gift it forward not today or ever?
It is up to you decide what feels right. Think about gratitude The time will come one day.

FAQs about the Generosity Tree getting bigger

Is this only you doing this or are there others involved? Who's the 'we' in these FAQs?
This is part of u lab 2x incubator programme. The core team, currently Martin Simon, Marianne Hartley Robert Woolf and Martin Farrell, is guiding the prototype and an extended team of three is likely to grow.
Is this just for the UK?
It’s for the UK and also for civil society worldwide. Generosity and gratitude are universal and an hour is the same everywhere.
Could Generosity Tree get big?
Maybe. We don’t know yet. It´s new. The future depends on how much interest there is.

Some emerging themes and ideas as at today

  • How do we understand the essence of giving? Love gives with no expectation of return; but I/we often find ourselves wanting something in return, for ourselves or for those close to us. 'Immature love says "I love you because I need you". Mature love says "I need you because I love you" ' Erich Fromm. 'When love is gone, there's always justice. And when justice is gone, there's always force ..' Laurie Anderson.
  • Is this for 'civil society' (understood to be those who actively seek to build a way of living which is decent and sustainable for all) or will it be open for all, inviting the best of everyone.
  • What better name its there for this initiative than the Generosity Tree?
  • If we are see the potential for all human beings to give, where do we start? It can't be everywhere; it needs to be somewhere - a 'land',. a community to start with and from which to grow. Which, where?
  • For this to have some form there needs to be a container, like water needing a glass so we can drink. But what? container could we create which does not constrain?

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Page last modified: 10 Jun 2021 20:49:39