About a week ago i was hanging out with a group of friends discussing some quite incredible stories of generosity that we had all been involved in this past year.
Each person in the group was connected to a person in the story of generosity although the majority of the group didn’t know the people involved.
The stories ranged from educational assistance to helping start up a township business to paying for a vehicle to help a newly started business transport the recycling it was collecting to celebrating some students who had recently graduated to setting up a single mom well in an entrepreneurial enterprise she was embarking on…
The most significant part of the evening might have been that all of us in the room were involved in giving something towards each of the stories that we were celebrating and sharing about.
This is Common Change
i have shared about this before and i likely will again, but being part of a Common Change group [not associated with the Common Ground Church or the Common Good non-profit they have which is itself involved in doing a lot of really tremendous things] has been one of the most exciting and practical ways of giving regularly and effectively that i have been involved in.
A group of friends who each contribute an amount [which can vary from group to group – from a set amount to a percentage of income to the amount you can give at that time – all of these are options you will decide on when you form a group] to a group pool and then meet the needs of people they know and care about.
Some strengths of giving via a Common Change group include the following:
# We can do so much more together that we can do alone – some people in the group might be more connected to more money while others may be more connected to more needs while others may be more intuitive or insightful when it comes to trying to figure out the best ways to meet a need [not always what is presented as sometimes there might be a better alternative give lurking in the background] – a Common Change group is a connecting of all of those resources and using them well together.
# The wisdom of the group – this concept that a group of ten or twelve of us might be able to come up with better ideas than me on my own when i am presented with a need has proven itself again and again. A safe place to share the need of someone i care about [with their permission] and see if as a group we can come up with some helpful solutions has been incredible to watch and be a part of and has helped shift the way i think about problems and opportunities.
# Walking in relationship with someone you are giving to – we have a one degree of separation rule which means that every need we meet will involve a person that at least one person in the group knows. So instead of throwing money or help at a problem we are committing to walk alongside someone we know and care about and part of that may be a money piece but a huger part of that is support and presence on the journey [which has often proved to be more helpful than any money we have given]
# Removing power from money – typically the way we function in the world is that he who has the money has the power, right? In a Comm on Change group the person who is contributing R10 000 per month has equal vote and say to the person who contributes R10. Everyone has an equal seat at the table and we intentionally challenge the mindset of the world that suggests otherwise.
# Bringing friends and new friends together – Val and i knew everyone [except one person, who a friend invited] in our group that we started as an experiment six months ago. But most of the rest of the group didn’t know each other. And our group has chosen [which is not necessary] to meet up every six months or so to have conversations in person and share needs and stories and build relationship within the group. We have been intentional about not being an all-white group and also not being an all-married group and have a decent array of ages within the group as well. So another opportunity for diversity in our friendships and meals we have together and conversations and of course in our giving. Different ways of doing things and even different ways of seeing things. And a lot of learning.
But one of the biggest things for me has always been this piece of Giving Together.
As a group we have given out R25 000 towards different needs over the last six months. That may not seem a lot to many of you but in terms of Val and my current income situation, that is never something we could have done without the group at the moment. And for the people with the needs which that money represents it feels like a pretty significant amount.
Moving on out
The reason we were meeting with our Common Change group for that particular meal and time of sharing was that our six months of experimentation had come to an end [this is actually the fourth group Val and i have been a part of – the experimentation was on behalf of all the others we invited to join us for a set time]. We met to decide if we wanted to continue or how we wanted to move forward and it was an overwhelming emphatic yes from everyone present. With the idea of inviting a few new people in to join the group as well.
So we are going to continue with this thing and the purpose of writing this all down was to invite you to do the same.
Do you have a group of friends in mind that you would love to try a six-month experiment of giving with? How about friends from different parts of your life [think work and sport, or church and hobby, or book club and gym] that you would love to bring together in a way that will be more meaningful than awkward.
i would love to chat to you more about this if you have any questions. But first you should maybe jump on to the South African Common Change website over here. Then get hold of me or email firstname.lastname@example.org and she will get you started.
What are you waiting for? Don’t put this off but rather have a go and see if this is something for you. Worst case scenario is you gather a group of people to talk about giving and hopefully help some people you love in some ways…
[Common Change started in Americaland and i know currently runs in the UK as well and there are people all over the world involved in different ways in different groups, and there are also close to 15 groups in South Africa right now. So it doesn’t matter where you are – if you want to find out more and maybe get involved, this could be for you.]