Gift circles are an emerging organisational format to facilitate gift giving and promote community. Increasingly popular, they are both simple and flexible, and although they require effort to start up, if done correctly, they become self-sustaining after a while.
The structure is loose and non-confining, amplifying the flexibility and relaxed nature of non-monetary interaction. Nevertheless, most gift circles meet regularly, often once a week in the same place. Most gift circles find it helpful to have a facilitator, who is generally a regular attendee and more experienced gift circle participant. Their structure is typically divided into complementary phases.
New attendees can introduce themselves, others can tell about how they're feeling, what news they have since the last meeting.
Circle members take it in turns to state a set of wishes, what they'd like to receive to make life more wonderful for them.
Circle members take it in turns to make offers of what they are ready to give, whether goods or services, possibly but not necessarily in response to others requests.
Members express gratitude for gifts they have received from others.
Some gift circles conclude by an 'action' phase, for wither pre-planned or spontaneous contributions involve some or all of the participants. These may be individual gifts just arranged in the circle, or a barn raising either as a gift to the community or to one of the circle members.
Origins and Growth
Alpha Lo was a pioneer of the gift circle movement, in California. Since 2008 his postings on WWW about them have brought them to a wider audience. Sharing as they do ideas of the need for constructive alternatives to existing social systems, they are proving popular among transition movements. Their popularity may also be understood as a response to the financial 'crisis'.