Give a Little, Gain a Lot: The ethical road to economic recovery
An anxious village shop and post office owner, losing heart and money, gives six more months of trade whilst villagers try to find a way to keep their only shop open.
A busy life and business coach, juggling work and family responsibilities, shares a vision of how to save the shop and inspires the community into action.
A dynamic Vicar, already supporting three churches, three school boards, and two charities, trawls the internet for grants and leads the fundraising campaign.
A mother of three small children overcomes her sleep deprivation to communicate her passion for community resourcefulness and joins the management committee.
A successful businessman, on the eve of going into hospital, pulls out his chequebook without hesitation and gives the project its start up funds.
This might read like a cast for The Archers, but these are real people in a real village saving a real shop and post office. These are a few of the founding members of the proposed new community run shop in Broadhempston, near Totnes in South Devon.
In addition, six trades-people are offering discounted services; 10 professionals are giving free expert advice; 36 volunteers have put themselves forward to serve in the shop; and 90 villagers have dug into their pockets and raised the £20,000 needed to take over the business. The community shop is on schedule to take over on the 6th April.
Each of these people has a full life, complete with personal challenges of all descriptions, yet each has something that they can happily give – time, money, expertise, enthusiasm. It’s a pleasure to be doing what they can. They each feel uplifted and enriched by the experience, and bonded to their community in a way they didn’t before.
And the collective reward is huge – the only village shop and post office at the heart of a rural community stays open. The whole community is brought together to create something even better than it had before – a spruced up shop, better goods and supplies to choose from, better prices, a new café, and a strengthened local network of mutual help and friendship – a quality of life factor that is hard to quantify.
The community shop in Broadhempston is a tiny microcosm, yet it is a working example of a principle that has a lot to offer on a grand scale. In fact nearly 200 rural shops in the UK are saving their village shops by following this community enterprise model – that’s perhaps 200,000 people directly benefiting from this kind of grass roots co-operation, with knock on effects far beyond.
Imagine what it would be like if every single person in the UK could act on the question ‘what can I give?’ With us all giving some time, money or expertise to someone or something that is little worse off than us, we would create a revolution of positive change.
This is the principle of Kaizen – a Japanese business concept that has been embraced in the West since the 80s. The idea is to encourage a culture of continuous, small positive change that adds up to a giant tidal wave of improvement. For example, if every person in an office of 200 makes one small improvement every day – a faster line of communication, organising a filing cabinet more efficiently – the collective positive change over days and weeks is incalculable.
It is a natural and understandable survival instinct to withdraw and protect oneself when one feels under threat. However, if we get stuck looking at what we fear and what we lack, we stay frozen and paralysed and the suffering is contagious. This is what is happening in the world economy right now. The fear and lack of confidence infecting our collective economic behaviour is creating more lack – a collective poverty mentality that creates more of itself.
However, if instead we can place our attention on what we have and what we still have available to give (a kind of ‘count our blessing’s’ and ‘bottle half full’ mentality), we relax. Things open up, opportunities arise, and energy, ideas and therefore money, start to flow. We feel empowered. We build confidence. We create new enterprises, exchanges and trades. Everyone starts to breathe again. We create wealth and prosperity. This is a collective abundance mentality, which again, creates more of itself.
This is the timeless metaphysical law of attraction at work – whatever you pay attention to, you get more of.
This is the timeless metaphysical law of attraction at work – whatever you pay attention to, you get more of. If your attention is on fear and lack you attract more fear and lack. If your attention is on plenty and generosity you attract more plenty and generosity. Our responsibility is therefore to take our attention off of what we don’t want (lack) and place it on what we do want (plenty). One of the most effective ways of doing this is to recognise what we have to give – even in tiny ways – and to give it.
Each and every one of us can create our own personal economic stimulus package within our own local, personal sphere.
Governments are launching economic stimulus packages using billions of pounds and dollars of public money. We can do the same thing – albeit with a few less zeros at the end of our sums. Each and every one of us can create our own personal economic stimulus package within our own local, personal sphere. This adds up to creating a lot of well being and a lot of prosperity.
And what about extending this principle to the sphere of business? What if every business in the country could ask itself: ‘what can we give?’ Perhaps there’s an allied local enterprise in need of a start up fund or a business mentor or a marketing partner. Perhaps giving a little will gain the local community a lot, which in turn rewards the ‘big brother’ sponsor with more customers and the country with a re-vivified economy.
Because of family connections in the village, the Broadhempston community shop is approaching a long standing company to become the lead corporate sponsor for rural community shops in the UK. The Plunkett Foundation (www.plunkett.co.uk) is a charity that supports rural community shops with grants and free advisers, and it’s just run out of grant because the demand is so great.
The proposal is that the company gives an annual donation to the Plunkett Foundation to distribute to rural community shops in the UK. Even though the company is itself feeling the pinch, its donor status now earns instant favourable exposure to hundreds of thousands of new customers in their prime market.
At the same time the company can demonstrate to its existing customer base that it’s doing its bit to stimulate the economy and protect the environment (by supporting local food trade and reduced car miles). The result for the company is that their profit increases well in excess of their donation every year.
The old paradigm of greed and exploitation has had its day and we are now experiencing the inevitable collapse of such a harsh principle. It doesn’t make sense to expect to gain at another’s or the planet’s expense indefinitely. Sooner or later the factory worker is exhausted or the field stops being fertile. Take, take, take – it doesn’t work long term.
Sustainable growth can only come from a different source – one of natural, intelligent, enjoyable, tending and giving. The economy can only thrive if based on mutually beneficial relationships of giving and receiving – a synergy that creates more than the sum of its parts. Just like the earth itself, we are all growing, living things and we need care and love and respect to yield our best, and continue yielding our best throughout our lives. Health, happiness and fulfillment are profoundly productive.
The new, sustainable economic paradigm is based on the ethical principle of philanthropy. The word ‘philanthropy’ means ‘love of humanity’ and, at best, is not just about giving unreservedly in order to ease suffering. Good philanthropy is considered – choosing where to invest resources so that a person or a business or an enterprise becomes independent and self-sustaining after initial assistance.
Of course we have the existing channels of investors or banks and lenders to assist in the growth of enterprise. This works to an extent (give or take the odd global distortion every few decades) but what about also looking to more real and intimate relationships? Who is right in front of our nose? Who do we really care about or feel an affinity with? Whose project or plight resonates with us? It’s easy to check if we are giving to the right cause or not. If it feels good, we are.
Ethical bank, Triodos, uses this principle. Only backing ethical and sustainable charities and businesses, Triodos encourages real connection and involvement between savers and borrowers. Savers know that their money is being invested in something worthwhile, something they believe in. And it seems that ethical investment pays. Triodos is bucking the banking trend this year by reporting a healthy growth in trade.
It could be time to re-stimulate the practice of tithing. Maybe we won’t give as much as a tenth of our income (and maybe not to a church) but there’s a simple elegance to the idea. Perhaps we feel happiest giving time or expertise or encouragement instead of money, but let’s choose our personal local cause and start giving. Let’s cause a tidal wave of kaizen to sweep across from our local communities and businesses and across the country to raise everyone’s level of well being in one fell swoop. A new age of philanthropy is comin
The Inner Wisdom Coach
Life, Business and Metaphysics
Founder of Thrivecraft Coaching
Former Buddhist Priest (Western Buddhist Order)
Socio-economic Psychologist (BA Hons. Social Science);
Certified Life Coach (Newcastle College)
Ethical and community entrepreneur
Led campaign to save Broadhempston village shop
This entry was posted on February 21, 2009 by Maggie Kay. It was filed under business, business mentor, economics, inspirational coaching, law of attraction, life coaching, metaphysics, social enterprise, spiritual coaching, spiritual intelligence, Uncategorized and was tagged with business, ethical business, inspiration, law of attraction, life coaching, metaphysics, spiritual intelligence, spirituality in business.
This is an excellent post which contains a great deal of very, very useful information.
I am very pleased to see that Broadhemston will have a community shop which will give the village a real buzz I’m sure. My auntie was the Headmistress at the school for a short while and I know the village quite well.
I think you post deals with 3 crucial points:
1. The (art) of giving (as opposed to thinking what someone might get). This is linked to value but not in a material sense;
2. Kaizen which I have applied in sport; you may not know but David Brailsford has applied this philosophy to the British Cycling team and Team sky. If only Toyota had walked the talk a bit more!
3. The law of attraction.
I think these are very significant principles and either on a 1 to 1 level or B2B I think would be worth trying to expand upon. I am thinking of starting up a Mastermind Group (sorry a bit American I know) to look at the Go-Giver and other such works (Seth Godin, Linchpins) to explore how the art giving can work without necessary being thought of as charity (which is part of it but not the whole thing).
Let me know what you think.
April 11, 2010 at 9:43 am
Thanks so much for your comments and drawing out those three points.
Actually, the community shop in Broadhempston has been up and running for over a year now (I wrote this article 15 months ago) and is thriving. It warms my heart to see people so pulled together and happy about ‘their’ shop!
I gave a talk at a social enterprise conference earlier this year about what I felt it took to mobilise the community and it was simply this – faith!
(See my videos posted on this blog a couple of months ago called Leaps of Faith 1. http://wp.me/ps0N4-6C
and 2. http://wp.me/ps0N4-6A )
Mastermind group sounds interesting. What’s your vision for it?
April 11, 2010 at 10:05 am
How about meeting up next week if you are free? Totnes? I would like to get a group together to discuss the GoGiver and other books in this area plus anything that others would like to deal with/inspired by.
Very best wishes.
April 11, 2010 at 12:38 pm