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What in the world is that? I dunno. I guess I am figuring that out. It came out of my mouth, so I better figure it out!

What most people think of as the economy is a transactional world where exchanges are made between people that clear obligation to each other. I buy milk at the store for a few bucks. I give them money, they give me milk, basically end of the story.

There is another economy – the gift economy. I am out of milk, I borrow some from the neighbor. I do not insult her by giving her a few bucks for it. Instead I bring her cookies. I reciprocated but it wasn’t transactional – in a tit for tit kind of way.

people sitting

We were talking, at #cocreate14, about the qualities of being co-creative. And that is when this phrase, non-transactional reciprocity came out of my mouth.

The old forms of international development/philanthropy worked in something like the following storyline for those providing what they thought of as “help” to others who needed to be helped. “I have something. I am sad that you don’t have this thing. So I am going to help you by teaching you how to have the thing that I have.”

When we come from a place of being co-creative, the story goes much more like:

“I have value to offer and I recognize that you have value. Let’s share our value with each other over time and see if we can make things better in ways we both believe actually are better for us.”

There is reciprocity here, where there wasn’t in the old international development/philanthropy model. But it is not transactional – as in we do not measure our gifts for each other as equal in a way that we feel the encounter is completed.

Maybe there is a better word for it, but this is the phrase that came to mind at #cocreate14. We did not talk there about how it relates to the gift economy, but I would love to hear your thoughts on how they may relate to each other.

One Comment

  1. Posted March 23, 2014 at 3:08 am | Permalink

    I’m not convinced the example with the cookies is really akin to the cocreative development situation you describe.
    I think the cookies really is a transaction – though we’re much looser and less calculating (which we can be when we each have complementary abundances).
    When I read the title I assumed you meant something like a ‘pay it forward’ culture where we offer ‘selflessly’ to others knowing that this is better for all (and in turn better for me), but that has nothing to do with reciprocation from that person to myself. It’s collective reciprocity instead of binary. … I’m off topic, I know. But I think this is ‘non transactional’ in a way the cookies example isn’t.
    I think even a more general ‘favours’ type arrangement between trusted acquaintences is still a transaction, it’s just a level less direct than the cookies one.

    But maybe this is all words.

    I wouldn’t consider your cocreative development approach to be reciprocity. Not foremost. Not any more than participation in a group activity is necessarily reciprocal – these contexts all provide value for each party as individuals, but I have some resistance to needing to call this reciprocity.

    If you take out the big words your description is just people being together. Which is of course, participating in the emergence (cocreation) of the future.

    Same words could be used to describe any invitation to a mutually voluntary togetherness (relationship, friendship, community or group participation, employment…).

    Do you want to call that reciprocity?
    Why not, I guess.

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