4000 Excuses To Spread Love

Posted by Parag Shah on May 4, 2013

At the inspiring Moved By Love retreat in March, I made an internal commitment to spread the spirit of "giftivism" in my local community.  This last week we implemented one of those ideas. 

We run an IB school in Surat with 1100 students -- Fountainhead.  Outside of the students themselves, there are two other elements that are quite fundamental to the learning experience: books and parents.   So we tried an experiment to engage them with generosity.  

On April 26th and 27th, we put out 5300 books in our newly created "Wisdom Book Store" and invited all our parents, teachers and staff to buy the books.  The only catch -- there was no price tag.  The recipient would choose the price.  

Oscar Wilde once said, "We know the price of everything, but the value of nothing."  Sometimes this is even true for books.  Without a price tag, "customers" are forced into all kinds of unexpected relationships.  The relationship with the content of the book itself, relationship with the school that is trusting them in this way, and relationship to their own self that might be sub-consciously conditioned to be a passive consumer.

As organizers, it was an interesting experience too.  How much would people pay?  Would people really understand?  If we lose money, is that a loss or actually an investment?  More than the answers, it was interesting just to see how these questions starting surfacing in our minds.

Ultimately, education is a gift.  Yes, we pay for the facilities and tuition, but the deepest parts of education -- values -- are offered as a pay-it-forward offering:  someone taught me priceless life lessons  when I was young, and I'm passing it on to the next generation!

How did we do?  People received 4000 books!  Books for all ages.  We were thrilled that these bits of wisdom were now in motion.  Financially speaking, we did lose some money (as expected) but we learned that we need to focus more on explaining the idea to the recipients and engage in a deeper relationship with each of them.  We also felt that a limit of 4 books per parent would be a helpful constraint.

Most importantly, though, it  blurred the consumer-contributor line between parents and the school; by radically trusting the parents, we entered into a space of co-creation.  Its hard to say where that will lead, but we're looking forward to our next parent-teacher interaction :) -- and see how it ripples into the hearts of our beloved kids.

All put together, I guess the biggest winners were the hosts themselves -- because we got the benefit of all these insights.   We plan to host six such events in the coming year, so you'll hear more from us soon. :) 

Posted by Parag Shah on May 4, 2013 | permalink

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