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Resource Mapping and Balanced Giving

By Hélène Lesterlin and Susan Grove

Through resource mapping, we acknowledge that resources move through group members differently and we create a way to equitably balance our resources.

When we contribute our time to a group effort, it is worth taking space at the outset to make sure everyone feels clear and comfortable with their giving and receiving within the group. To do this, we can view a group as a dynamic, living ecosystem of individuals who both provide valuable resources and receive benefits, in a variety of ways. Through resource mapping, we acknowledge that resources invariably move through the group members differently and we create a clear way to balance those resources equitably.

To maintain a healthy and productive group, it is helpful for members to be conscious of resource flows. The goal is to be satisfied that resources are flowing appropriately and that people are able to formulate requests of the group to bring their resources into balance. This provides a chance to think through what we are agreeing to give and what we expect to receive as individuals and as a group. One way to approach this is to name the different forms of “valuable resources” or “capital” in what we offer and what we receive. 

Regenerative agriculture expert and author, Ethan R. Soloviev, writes about 8 Forms of Capital, taking inspiration from ecology and permaculture to look at finance differently. Soloviev encourages us to think about how we mistakenly limit our concept of “valuable resources” to “financial capital” or “money,” instead of holding a more holistic view.

We like to use the term “8 Forms of Abundance” to further step away from the general preconceptions that “capital” might bring up. So here is our hybrid of Soloviev’s 8 Forms of Capital:

Based on Ethan R. Soloviev’s 8 Forms Of Capital

Soloviev provides an example of why volunteering his time on a project he cares about is not just “free labor” i.e. a gift of time and work without pay:

When I volunteer time working on my friend’s organic permaculture farm, more than just ‘free labor’ is taking place:

  • I’m gaining experiential and intellectual capital about the farm’s soil, crops, and management.
  • We’re supporting the growth of healthy living capital in the soil.
  • My friend gets help producing products to exchange for financial capital (her right livelihood).
  • We both build social capital through positive interaction and connection with each other.

This amount of clarity can lead to a whole new level of transparency in our work as eco-social-cultural-economic designers.

We find it useful to springboard off of Soloviev’s broader and more nuanced discussion of valuable resources to reach a shared understanding of our own equitable balance of resources within a working group.

Participating as an active member of a working group brings many benefits. It is helpful to name those benefits so individuals can have personal clarity on why they are willing to give to the group. It is also helpful for members to specify what skills or resources they wish to share in order to get a complete picture of what collective energies are available in the group. That way, when it comes time to decide on roles and goals, the group already has a good sense of what its members want to contribute and what might be missing.

Generally, what is less talked about is the potential for stress and unease when the differing abilities of people to provide “free labor” are not discussed with transparency and mutual support. Problematic assumptions may result in people feeling imposed upon or taken advantage of. To give an example: three stewards for a working group meet twice a month to prepare the sessions for their group; it comes to light that for two of them, this work is considered part of their paid employment whereas for the third it is not. Resource mapping can be used to support the third person in assessing whether or not the resources flowing to her align with her intention and willingness to give. She may request a financial stipend or other resource from the group to rebalance and honor her work. Or she may decide that her participation is being offered in alignment with her own goals for volunteering in her community, and that she is already in balance and acknowledged for her work.

Through the tool outlined below, we want to shine a light on the concept of “valuable resources” (our preferred term to “forms of capital”) and apply it to the context of clarifying giving and receiving in a group. By identifying the valuable resources within the group and providing a way to address imbalances, we can create a healthy environment where everyone’s contributions are acknowledged and we can appreciate the many ways we benefit from being in this work together. We believe this enriches all participants’ experience of and commitment to the collective work at hand.

We recommend revisiting this tool periodically because people’s contributions and perceptions are dynamic and changeable. Something that seems in balance at first can become lopsided over time. The ongoing goal is for the group to operate with a conscious, regenerative approach to balanced giving and receiving.

TOOL: Resource Mapping + Balanced Giving

WITH WHOLE GROUP – 10 minutes
Take some time to review this chart of valuable resources as a way to introduce the concept and have a shared understanding.
SOLO – 15 minutes
First, use the questions below to reflect on your role in the group [note, words in brackets are for when the group is new]:
– OFFER: What valuable resources do you [intend to] offer to the group?
– RECEIVE: What valuable resources does your [anticipated] participation in the group generate for you?
– BALANCE: How do you feel about the balance of what you [intend to] offer and receive? If you sense imbalance, what ideas do you have for rebalancing?

Then, use these questions to consider what you want to share about: 
– OFFER / RECEIVE: What you are [anticipating] offering and receiving?
– BALANCE: What is your sense of balance / imbalance? Do you have any request(s) you want to make to address imbalances?
IN PAIRS – 10 minutes:
[This step may be useful for larger groups, or skipped when the group is small.] One person briefly summarizes what they choose to share and requests feedback and input from their partner. 

After 5 minutes, switch and repeat.
WITH WHOLE GROUP – 5 minutes per person + 30 minutes:
First, each person briefly shares what they choose to share. A designated notetaker writes rebalancing requests where all can see (e.g. whiteboard, flipchart, etc.) 

Group discussion, up to 30 minutes:
Then, after all have shared, the group discusses rebalancing requests, brainstorms ways of responding to them and decides on action steps.

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Hélène Lesterlin, GWI

Hélène (she/her) is inspired by what can happen when creativity, collaboration, and clarity come together. She works to illuminate narratives that change our outlook and understanding, and helps Just Transition-aligned people and projects move into action.

Susan Grove, GWI

Susan (she/her) is energized by opportunities to learn and facilitate learning; to design participatory gatherings and organize information; to tap into the power of effective collaboration and the generative potential of conflict; to connect across differences and contribute toward more equitable futures in the Mahicantuck Valley.

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