Creating a Culture of Generosity: Dialogues for a New Year

As we come upon a new year, we invite you to engage in conversations
with family and friends as you gather to share the festivities and bounty of
our relationships. Such conversations are best offered as Dialogues, intending
to shed light on one another’s perspectives and experiences, rather than
intending to persuade others to adopt our own positions. Some starting points
are offered here:

  1. What does it take to create a culture of
  • It begins with a personal commitment,
    intentions, and actions that are ‘first steps’ to demonstrate that commitment.
  • We are invited to notice our interconnections,
    and how our personal passions and talents may serve these relationships.
  1. What opportunities exist to live generously?
  • Notice the ways we already do so… share stories
    that illustrate such opportunities, and ways you notice others living
    generously that can be models to embrace in our own lives.
  1. How do we further these Conversations? Where
    might each of us engage others and expand the scope of the Dialogue?
  • Invite people to consider their own circles of influence
    at work, in their friendships, and in their communities. We all possess the
    power to initiate and host such conversations and see what they might bring
  1. What are some of the key challenges or obstacles
    that may inhibit our capacities to live generously?
  • Some challenges are personal (relating to our
    own fears, biases, anxieties, and discomforts), some are interpersonal (relating
    to our beliefs about Others, our varying personalities and work styles, our
    relationships, both positive and negative), and some are structural (relating
    to our cultural expectations and beliefs, rules and laws, systemic incentives).

How might we support one another in navigating
these challenges in our lives?

As you engage in such Dialogues, we invite you to document
and share the results of the conversations. As we accumulate a large number of
such experiences, we hope that the Culture of Generosity Project may serve as a
repository of shared wisdom and learning… perhaps new insights regarding
patterns of generosity and opportunities to broaden its practice may result.



Conversation: Sharing the Work and Sparing the Environment

In a recent post on CSRWire, policy analyst Charles Siegel discusses his ideas about our ‘culture of conspicuous consumption’ being built into our economic policy decisions. As a result, Americans feel compelled to work full-time, despite surveys suggesting that many of us would prefer to work fewer hours and devote more of our lives to volunteerism and community service. If we are to cultivate a Culture of Generosity, we must seriously examine ideas offered by people like Siegel, for he helps us question some fundamental assumptions about work in a thoughtful and constructive manner.

As I discussed in my TEDxMadtown talk in March, we need to reframe our thinking about capitalism into a collaborative benefits model; by working together to see collective returns on investment (ROI), and by internalizing environmental externalities and other social costs inherent in our individualized, competitive consumption approach, we can create a new form of capitalism that may be far more responsive to the needs of our times. Some excellent work in this area has been done by C. Otto Scharmer at MIT, and his “Presencing Institute.” Scharmer and his colleagues have developed a model of leadership and social change called Theory U, articulated in a book by that title and other writings. As an element of their work, Scharmer has written about 7 key leverage points required to transition into Capitalism 3.0, a new approach that incorporates some of the suggestions we have been making at the Culture of Generosity Project. Theory U consultants have now been involved in numerous projects around the world that put these ideas into practice, offering models of capitalism and collaboration that offer hope to an otherwise broken, outdated paradigm. Please visit their site and learn about their work…



We Are All Connected

The Tribe is a sculpture in our home from ’16 Hands Artists Cooperative’ in Ann Arbor, MI. To our family, it reflects the unity of all peoples and our shared connections and mutual destiny… Harry

We have nothing to fear…but fear itself

In our conversations about generosity, we have explored the ‘shadow side’ of the concept… what keeps us from behaving in ways that are generous? We immediately move to a key element: Fear. We are paralyzed from generous action by Fear of loss –“What will happen to us? Can we afford to risk that exposure?”

I also think that we need to explore the basic paradigm of Scarcity that underlies our social and economic systems:

Assumptions of competition for scarce resources,
Legacies of warrior domination and power dynamics,
Organizational models of dependency, imperialism, disaggregated hierarchies…

These constructs lead to the development of social and political systems that reproduce themselves and lead us to a ‘lose-lose’ paradigm of extinction of humanity and, perhaps, Gaia.

Is there an alternative pathway that is possible?
Is there something fundamental that we have overlooked by stressing certain mythologies at the expense of other legacies that are, in their own ways, just as truly inherent to our character and genetic make-up?

By proposing a system that flows from generosity, rather than scarcity, we can envision responses to Gaia’s challenges that are fundamentally different from those that tend to be produced by the current paradigms. By drawing upon chaos theory, integral theory, emerging understandings of biology and overlooked biases of economic and political models that have been the basis for much Western thinking, we can visualize a realistic alternative set of assumptions, models, services, and responses to the challenges facing the planet.

Imagine a Culture of Generosity: Articulating Values to Guide Us

If we are to imagine a Culture of Generosity, what values might we need to guide us?

Responsibility: We are all in this together. As such, we have personal responsibility to look out for one another. I don’t mean to imply that we sacrifice self-interest, but instead that we have mutual interests that can be uncovered, if we dare to look for them and feel an obligation to engage in the exploration;

Respect: We all have the capacity to make meaningful contributions. The concept of ‘respect’ manifests itself in diverse ways across cultures, and for that matter, is perceived and constructed differently by different people. Engaging in respectful behavior flows from this value…

Transparency: We all benefit from sharing information, wisdom, and lessons learned. Rather than hoarding knowledge, we start from a desire to share it for mutual benefit and let others know of the uncertainty inherant in our sense of Knowing. There is a humility in transparency as a value…how can I truly judge what you need to know if you are as wise as I?

Trust: We need to reliably predict our own and one another’s actions to the best of our abilities (substantive, emotional, contractual trust). In turn, this fosters a greater capacity to appreciate deeper meaning in relationships of various types, whether in the workplace, family, or community.

From these basic values we can begin to engage in conversations about generosity… what does it look like in practice? How have we experienced it? Are these values truly expressed in these stories? What other values matter?

Add your voice to the conversation…

Welcome to the Generosity Project!

Welcome! This project is about Possibility.
It flows from a heartfelt desire to make a contribution to the World, and in so doing, for all of us to to make contributions far beyond our traditional expectations. All of us have different things to share, gifts of knowledge, skills, time, money… We believe it is in our best interests to act from a place of generosity in many of the places we inhabit and in many of the businesses in which we engage…