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 Form 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:
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.