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GIVING

Within the framework of adaptation and hyperlocal urbanism, giving refers to localized philanthropy and the gift economy. Donating one’s labor is also an important form of giving. Giving labor has a significant community building function. It also creates more practical interaction between neighbors; neighbors feel more motivated to work out the conflicts and more tolerant of the disturbances. Tolerance is a form of giving. In isolated societies with closed sustenance systems, the members tend to see clearly how their lives depend on the work of others and thus tend to be more tolerant of real and perceived differences.

Many of us are acquainted with the philanthropy of rich donors supporting arts, schools and other social institutions. Perhaps we've given money ourselves to such good causes, or have donated time and effort as a volunteer, made soup for a sick friend, or gave away goods we no longer had use for in times of emergencies and disasters, increasing our awareness of how crucial the help of others is. After such disasters, even more than regular times, we tend to be ready and motivated to give and help others. This is a basic and admirable human trait. There can be a challenge, however, enabling this help, offering ways to reach those who need it. When conventional communities from the power grid, when the roads are damaged and closed, the residents are left alone by themselves, sometimes even for months, as we have experienced from some of the recent disasters. Jobs and income are lost. These disasters are extreme cases, but are becoming more common. The conclusion is that we need to proactively localize philanthropy.

Being proactive means we plan ahead. Instead of waiting for a disaster to call our local sources, we strengthen them now. This is one of the purposes of creating receiving zones in the first place. Giving to invest in the localization of the sustenance systems, and thus enabling moving away from the danger via making it an attractive choice, is better than trying to reach victims after a disaster. Investing in strengthening local social support systems is also a proactive way to be prepared. Giving doesn't need to be only from the few who are rich. Each and every one of us can give some of our wealth or time and labor to the community’s common good. To be convinced, we just need to see clearly how essential such giving can be in creating a strong community and achieving resilience. Mutual aid groups, which pop up during dire times, can exist as a daily way of life.

Giving labor, especially at a local scale, has a significant community building function as well. For one thing, we usually see the gratifying results of our giving more immediately. Donating labor usually also creates more practical interaction between neighbors and thus we end up feeling more motivated to work out conflicts. Practical interaction occurs when we see a clear objective for the interaction and this clear objective dominates, and possibly eliminates, any possible hidden motives. The discussion of what color the community house should be painted can instigate conflict of egos and create. But a decision about fixing the local water distribution system may be made faster since the participants can see clearly the larger necessity. 

Practical interactions strengthen our ties with each other and motivate us to give and invest more in community building. Practical interactions can also help us be more tolerant of disturbances. Tolerance is a form of giving and increases with necessity. In isolated societies with closed sustenance systems, the members tend to clearly show their lives depend on the work of others and thus tend to be more tolerant. The near future may force us to experience isolation at various scales, levels, and durations. We have already experienced isolation because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Family members quarantining together learned how to be more tolerant of each other, since the alternative could be disastrous; in other families, disasters did in fact happen, which further strengthens our point.

 

Philanthropy has been an important part of our society and has been a strong financial force that has contributed to civility. Without civility, our society tends to leave behind the weak, the troubled, and the unfortunate, which then potentially increases the risk for social disorder. Thus, philanthropy’s role may become even more essential in the future when we are faced with uncertainties, irregularities, and unusual conditions. Helping and giving to each other, working on mutually beneficial projects together, is away of building our own “social capital” or “social security” when government support is, at the very least, uncertain.

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