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Reinventing Cultural Agreements: 15 Sources for Learning

By Fiona Otway

As a documentary filmmaker, my passion is to explore questions about how culture can be a catalyst for social change. Our economic systems are an obvious axis of power, but it’s easy to forget that these systems are fundamentally dependent upon cultural agreements and assumptions about what we value.

Over the years, I’ve developed a deep curiosity and respect for people making efforts to prioritize equity and caring in their communities by actively challenging and/or reinventing our cultural agreements related to money, property, ownership, labor, economic growth, generosity, reciprocity, etc. This work is complex, yet vital. As we deepen our conversations about these topics in our own community, I wanted to share a few resources that have helped me expand my understanding of this layered landscape of possibility.

  • Common Future is a national organization focusing on new visions of sustainable, equitable economies, including initiatives related to addressing the race and wealth gap, self-determination in local communities, transforming the extractive economy and more. An extensive collection of articles on their website digs into these topics.
  • Homestead Community Land Trust (based in Seattle, WA) is a 25 year old organization successfully using the land trust model to create affordable housing for low and moderate income residents.
  • Beyond Greed and Scarcity” is a provocative back and forth conversation between economist Bernard Lietaer and YES! Magazine co-founder Sarah van Gelder, exploring some of the ideas underpinning community currencies. 
  • GIFT, a documentary by Robin McKenna, is an intimate exploration of real-life gift economies and a reflection on the creative process.
  • GRAB, a documentary by Billy Luther about “Grab Day”, which occurs in the villages of the Laguna Pueblo tribe. Water and food are tossed from rooftops to people standing below, in the tradition of gift economies.

Fiona Otway is a documentary filmmaker based in the Hudson Valley.

By hosting a diversity of voices and sharing the workings of vital initiatives, the Rooted Resources series provides a clearer vision of what “democratizing wealth, communities, and work” means, refracted through the living experience and the emerging projects of the people who are making change today.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Good Work Institute or any other agency, organization, employer or company. And since we are critically-thinking human beings, these views are always subject to change, revision, and rethinking at any time. Please do not hold anyone accountable to them in perpetuity.

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