Give Box

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A Gift Box In A Laundrette

A Give Box, Gift Box, or Free Box is perhaps the simplest way to promote the gift economy and is easy to set up even if you are on your own. It's simply a box where people are free to put things in for others or to take things from for themselves.

The Box[edit]

Walk In Give Box in Use.jpg

The box itself should be fairly sturdy and not too small, since you never know what people might put in it. If it is well presented, that will add to the appeal and probably help motivate people to take part. Make sure that people don't mistake it for a rubbish bin and discard things in it. A clear sign explaining how it works will help here. Some creators of give boxes spend a lot of time to make them beautiful experiences, in Germany, custom built walk-in boxes which work as outdoor structures are popular.


Some give boxes are open to all types of property, others encourage people only to give a particular type of item, such as books.


Walk In Give Box.jpg

Choose somewhere that is safe from the elements, and free from cleaners or others who might tidy it away. A public space in which people have to regularly wait gives busy people a chance to look over what is in the box, while one that they visit regularly allows them to come back later with new items. Waiting rooms and laundrettes[1] are popular choices. The box should be easily visible, but not in anyone's way. If you place it on the ground, make sure that it will not be mistaken for a waste bin, especially if it is a similar size and shape. Placing it on a low table or other place slightly above ground level may be good for this reason.

The same principles apply to the siting of walk-in boxes. They work well in places with a lot of visitors, but which is not in anyone's way, somewhere people have time to browse, such as at a bus stop.


As of July 2013, there is no widely known registry of give boxes on WWW, so any publicity is best organised locally, probably with other regular users of the space. People may well be open to publicity since it can work as an attraction for others and as a means to promote community, especially if it is in a place such as a cafe, social center or other public venue such as a railway station or library.


The give box system is self managing, so setting it up should be the only work you have to do. If it becomes popular, you may wish to leave a note to contact its users, such as to meet for social reasons or perhaps even to meet about expanding the concept using other gift economy methods.


Reading based arachist cartoonist Paul Petard regularly held 'free box' sharing days in the 1990s.[2] The popularization of give boxes in Germany has been credited to a couple in Berlin who made a large, walk-in box. After being featured on German TV the practice quickly spread to other cities.[3][4]


  2. Welhealth Give and Take Newsletter #60, Jan to March 2013