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A ‘Gift Economy’ Approach to Nurture Our Community

Submitted by: Natalia Castaneda on Nov 9th, 2009 at 3PM PST

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At the Leadership Learning Community, we strive to be an open community where members can exchange ideas and information in a safe, collaborative environment. We capture the learning and insights on our wikis and website, in an effort to open up the access to information so those interested in leadership development for social justice are better equipped to move the needle in their own work. We have successfully grown a community of hundreds of individuals and organizations across the nation, and have built a central repository where anyone can access information at no cost. We are extremely proud of our model – but we want more. To advance true change, we need to scale the level of connections and information exchange to higher levels.


At our last board meeting, we began brainstorming about how to increase the reach of our collective knowledge, as well as the level of engagement of our members. One of the ideas we discussed has really had an impact on me, so I would like to share it with you. Grady McGonagill, one of our board members, raised the idea of implementing a ‘gift economy’ model to help fuel the collaboration and information exchange within our community. His suggestion raises interesting questions and opportunities. Based on this model, everyone in the community commits to engaging in a series of activities, such as posting a research document, starting an online discussion, hosting a learning session; and in doing so receives ‘credits’. The member could use the credits to get ‘rewards’, such as a discounted rate at an LLC event, etc. That way, the member is actively engaged in helping grow and nurture the LLC community, and at the same time, he or she is getting additional, immediate benefits. All in all, everyone wins.

Obviously, this model raises some challenges, especially around the infrastructure that would need to exist to support the model and allow members to track their credits and rewards. But we think it is worth exploring further because it truly embodies some of the most important values of LLC – transparency and reciprocity. There is an opportunity for our members to increase their engagement with the community and fully leverage all the resources and connections available to them; only a healthy community can advance the systemic impact we seek.

We encourage you all to share your thoughts, and maybe share stories about similar models that have failed or succeeded in the past, so together we can develop the right approach to help nurture a strong Leadership Learning Community.