Contrary to conventional wisdom, should we actually be saving less and sharing more? In preparation for our upcoming DRINKS+THINKS I sat down with Scott Collier of Slow Money and Trathen Heckman and Carolyne Stayton of Transition US  to discuss their work in the movement to transform our relationship to money, community, and Earth.  What started out as a conversation about sustainable agriculture, reskilling, hyper-local community building and D.I.Y. empowerment evolved into a question of how we see money, investment, and sharing in all segments of our life.

Scott introduced me to the concept of Impact Investing – supporting businesses that support change.  Or as Wikipedia puts it “investments made into companies, organizations, and funds with the intention to generate measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return.”  What a powerful idea!  The brilliant advantage here is that, unlike one time charitable contributions or savings account stockpiles, this money can be cycled over and over again having positive impact after positive impact.

There will be lots to discuss about the power of impact investing, slow money, and transitioning to a more resilient society at our event on January 18th but for now I’d like to explore a tangent…

Scott also mentioned the original purpose of currency – to trade, which led me to discover this Wikipedia description under the history of money:

The use of barter-like methods may date back to at least 100,000 years ago, though there is no evidence of a society or economy that relied primarily on barter. Instead, non-monetary societies operated largely along the principles of gift economics and debt. When barter did in fact occur, it was usually between either complete strangers or potential enemies.

What I find fascinating here is the idea that bartering was essentially for people you did not trust – “complete strangers or potential enemies”, where as gift and debt were the means of exchange within a community.  Can you imagine knocking on your neighbors door for the traditional “cup of sugar” and being asked what you had to offer in exchange?  It wouldn’t happen because your neighbor recognizes the unspoken agreement that if, someday in the future, they need something you’ll be there to return the gift (or repay your debt).

This thought led me to the TED talk by Rachel Botsman: The Case for Collaborative Consumption.   Rachel argues that Reputation Capital (trust) is a valuable asset the internet is allowing us to recapture so that we can return to traditional methods of sharing, swapping, renting and trading.  She sees the rise of websites like Airbnb and TaskRabbit empowering people to not only unlock the value of underutilized assets (extra bedrooms, free time) but to make meaningful real-world connections with people they’ve found online.

What’s my point?  I’m not sure…I told you it was a tangent. Come to the next DRINKS+THINKS on Friday January 18th at 7PM and maybe we’ll find one!