“Pushing Away from Capitalism.” Interview with Kim Krichbaum of Eugene Gift Circles by Willi Paul, Planetshifter.com Magazine

“It’s great to ask for small or quirky things, too. A button sewn on, a costume to borrow, someone to play backgammon with.” KK

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Interview with Kim by Willi. Background piece on Gift Circles follows.

What is a human need? To what length have you to journeyed to find answers?

There are many levels of human need. From basics like food and shelter, to interpersonal needs like intimacy, listening, appreciation, to deeper personal needs like the needs to contribute and make a difference, and the need to love. There are also more concrete things that bring us joy. Our intent is that at Gift Circles we can address this whole range of needs. In the early days of our gift circles, my offer for matchmaking had more requests than any other offer I made.

Personally I have observed my community and individual with unmet needs in the community for many years. I noticed that many people would not feel it appropriate to ask for help with huge needs like chronic pain, loneliness, overwhelm with children etc. I specifically encourage participants at Gift Circles to ask for the needs that would really make a difference in their lives. It was the desire to live in a community where those deeper needs were addressed and met that have fueled my personal motivation for creating Gift Circles.

Are gift circles spiritual? Any examples to share?

What does "spiritual" mean? Gift Circles are not a specific spiritual practice, nor are they tied to a specific spiritual belief system. Yet if part of your belief system is that "we are all one', then at Gift Circles we hold that giving to someone in our community is really giving to a part of our larger self. And we give for the sake of giving, and receive in gratitude. I see all of that as concretely spiritual. I know at Gift Circles I often feel a fullness, a connectedness from transcending the usual state of isolation and competition that is present in much of our society.

Are you supporting capitalism or pushing away from it? Where do Gift Circles integrate into the larger alt economy? Examples please.

Gift Circles are pushing away from capitalism. In our traditional economy, saving and even hoarding is encouraged. There is a story that a Native American from an Oregon tribe who practiced gifting was asked when they had a large fishing haul, why they would hold a huge party and give away the fish, rather than salt and store the fish for later. He replied, "I do store the fish, in the belly of my brother." Our philosophy, rather than save things or money we are not using, that we store it in the lives of our community members, and that is where security and prosperity come from.

Our picture in the long run, is that will be several levels of economy, some form of national or international currency for long distance exchanges, if that currency had a negative interest rate, all the better. (read the brilliant book, Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein for more info on negative interest economics, it's available online for gift). There will also likely be a local currency for exchanges outside our community, but in our vision, the resources that are given and received within our community will happen within personal and online gift circles. We work with Kindista.org, a Eugene organization that has an online gifting database.

This coming together in a caring community process sounds like a new ritual? Your thoughts?

Gift Circles are definitely a new and evolving ritual. In some circles we have an initial go around where we share what we are grateful for that we have received, and I find that practice makes the circle feel more ritual-like. Potlucks beforehand and other ways we connect, also add to the ritual feeling of a circle. And I have the sense that there are other pieces we may add to this form over time that will add to the ritual nature.

Aren't GC really about bartering?

No, at Gift circles we have a guideline that all transactions do not have to be equal. You may give to one person and receive from another. We trust that balance will come from reputation built up over time. If you know another person gives a lot, you will feel more motivated to give to them, and conversely, if someone develops a reputation as a taker, others will be less willing to give.

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Bio - Kim Krichbaum

Kim has been exploring the question, "How do we create communities where people really get their needs met? " for much of his life. Kim has facilitated the Heart of Now awareness and communication workshop in Eugene for over 10 years and has lived in two intentional communities, For the last year Kim has been focusing on creating a real and powerful sharing economy through gift circles and workshops helping people practice the skills they need to give and receive fully.

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How Do Gift Circles Work?

Gift circles are community gatherings where each person shares what they want to give, and want to receive in their life, and then we connect to make it happen without an exchange of money. After a short introduction and check-in, we will go around the circle and give each person a chance to share what they would like to give to others, This may be time, skills, goods, info, and more. Each of us will have a piece of paper to take notes when we hear an offer we’d like to receive.

Some folks have a hard time recognizing what they can give, but we all have things to give. Think of what you love to give, what you are good at, not just at work, but with your family and friends. Think about what you have extra that you could give away. Think about what tools and goods you have that you rarely use and could loan. Think about what information you have that others would value.

Next we go around and each person shares what they would like to receive. Again, we all take notes. Ask for things that could make a real difference in your life. There are often areas where people think they cannot ask for help, or they cannot imagine how their community could help them, and yet with almost any need, your community can help.

People have received car use, child care help, introductions to romantic partners, even help reclaiming a stolen car. If you have a need, it can be met. Ask for things that will reduce your dependence on money. Massages, food, car repair, carpentry, and more have been exchanged in gift circles
It’s great to ask for small or quirky things, too. A button sewn on, a costume to borrow, someone to play backgammon with.

Next, we all go up to others with whom we would like to give and receive and set up connections to make it happen. Not every connection has to a trade, You may give to one person and receive from another. Each time someone asks you to give them something, or you offer, we encourage you to check in with yourself, and see if this particular interaction feels right. You do not have to give something to an individual just because you were interested in giving in general. We encourage you to only say yes when in feels right, but if you do say yes to follow through. And in the rare cases when you cannot, to communicate with the person as soon as possible. We are building a community of trust. No will not damage this trust. Saying Yes and not following through, will.

We have an ethic of giving with beauty, excellence, and integrity. Treating our gifts to one another is more important than money, not less. A couple of notes – most of our exchanges do not involve money, but there are a few exceptions. When you give a gift that costs you money to give, you can ask for a pass through cost of materials, and still gift the person with your time and skills. This might be applicable with material for sewing, wood for carpentry, or mileage if you have to drive a considerable distance as part of the favor. Also, if you are a person with much more money than time, you can voluntarily give money, either in appreciation for a gift you received, or simply to a person in the circle who needs it. This is about all of us having our needs met.

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