The Organization Unbound giving field
  • One of the many Organization Unbound ideas that I love is The Giving Field, where giving is not a unidirectional transaction but a field in which all participate, where there is no longer a distinction between giver and receiver, where everyone contributes and benefits continuously. I have experienced the generative nature of the giving field in my own life and work in often surprising ways, and I wonder what might happen if those of us within Organization Unbound’s orbit became more intentional about activating a giving field. This is both a reflection and an invitation.

    Organization Unbound is entering a phase where it is being called to do more and increase its impact: accompanying more people and organizations as they experiment with the practice of expressive change, convening more global learning exchanges, and creating more learning materials. This will require resources. Organization Unbound can no longer sustain itself on volunteer hours and passion alone.

    I see this need for more resources as an exciting opportunity to experiment with the giving field, particularly in the realm of finances, an area that many in the social purpose world tend to shy away from. And for good reason. Despite the fact that money is one of the primary ways humans store and measure value, we don’t have the best track record when it comes to using it in a way that contributes to a healthier and more just world. But money itself is not the culprit. Our inner state is the culprit. How money manifests is a reflection of our collective consciousness.

    I wonder what we might learn from inquiring appreciatively into our experience with money? For example, I have noticed that my connection to something I care about often expands when I contribute to it financially. And why is this? One of the ways I express my love for something or someone and desire for them to thrive is to give to them. Since money is one of the ways my time is valued, for me giving financially can be an act of love, a way of giving myself to another.

    How can we participate in giving and receiving in a way that enables Organization Unbound, and by extension all of us, to thrive even more in the years ahead? I’m excited to see what will emerge from this inquiry. In the meantime, here are a few of my own thoughts on what this might look and feel like in practice:

    Unbounded amounts- I cannot begin to measure the impact that Organization Unbound has had on me personally and on my social enterprise Zenith Cleaning. Our story is incomplete without Organization Unbound. It has helped me articulate the essence of what we are trying to do and has greatly influenced the overall direction we’ve taken as an organization. How do I put a figure to something so non-quantifiable? My view is that if you have the means, it is better to give an amount that feels too low than to not give at all. What I have done is to start with a figure that pops up in my mind, that I feel comfortable with. But rather than seeing it as indicative of the actual value of the relationship, I see it as a symbol of the immeasurable value of the relationship.

    Unbounded terms- We should feel free to change the level, type and frequency of our contributions at any time and for any reason. The process of re-evaluating our giving is itself a gift, even if it results in a decision to completely withdraw. Because if at any point we feel stressed in our giving relationship with Organization Unbound, that weakens the giving field, even if no one is aware of this. The field is aware. On the flip side, a re-evaluation might result in completely rethinking how we contribute, leading to new creative avenues of contribution.

    Sharing- Sharing reports of inflows and outflows strengthens the field. Sharing how we are experiencing this adventure strengthens the field. Practicing on-going inscaping strengthens the field. It would also be great to find a way to harvest and make visible what we’re learning so that it can be shared more broadly.

    These ideas are far from exhaustive. The giving field has an intelligence of its own. It is strengthened by every thought, word or act that is a gift, including the act of receiving. And it is weakened by any thought, word or act that deprives. Regardless of how strong the field becomes, I do not think we can avoid a weakening from time to time. When we notice a weakening, we strengthen it again through our gifts.

    Contributing as part of a larger giving field is an opportunity to transform how we relate to money- to infuse it with a relational, creative, and restorative quality. It is the same spirit that prompts us at Zenith Cleaning to take cleaning deeper, to see and relate to cleaning as it truly is rather than the chore it has been portrayed to be. This spirit of inquiry can apply anywhere. How do we go beyond the surface of whatever it is we do, even what may seem purely transactional, to explore its deeper and richer dimensions?

    Thank you for taking time to read this reflection. If you have thoughts to share, please post them in the comment section below.

    And if you feel inspired to contribute to Organization Unbound’s growth in this way, consider joining its circle of sustained support.


    May 5th, 2017 | Tolu Ilesanmi | 5 Comments

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5 Responses and Counting...

  • Noha M. 05.05.2017

    This is beautiful, Tolu – thank you for sharing your reflections. I often struggle with interactions and transactions that involve “money” and your thoughts here have opened up a richer, deeper way of engaging with it. I’m grateful and am curious to explore the ways in which I may be able to shift that relationship with money for myself and for my organization.

  • I’m echoing Noha’s comment. I will be sharing this text with our community of donor members, with our fundraising team, and probably with a lot of other people. We’re trying at the Roulant to have all the members of the organization, including donors, engaged to the degree that they seek. These amazing insights are super helpful for us to think that through, to reflect on what it means to be engaged with an organization, to put word on our feelings and thoughts! Thank you Tolù, thank you Tana, thank you Rennie and thank you Organization Unbound.

  • Thank you for your comment Noha. I think a great place to start and the state to endeavour to be in, is that curiosity. I think the transformational opportunities of that spirit of inquiry around everything including money are immense. The question I continue to sit with, which I also hope this reflection invites us into is, “How do we go beyond the surface of whatever it is we do, even what may seem purely transactional, to explore its deeper and richer dimensions?” How can money play a part in strengthening the giving field in our lives and organizations? How can money be an instrument of love, a token of gratitude, appreciation, generosity that creates a field of generativeness even in situations that are usually sterile and purely transactional? For a while, my enterprise Zenith has had clients who throughout their relationship with us, wrote the simple words, “Thank you” on every cheque or electronic payment and I cannot begin to describe how transformational that is. It lifts the work from an ordinary service to an offering that is as much a “thank you” as the payment is. How can money nourish such a field within the Organization Unbound orbit?

  • Thank you Pier for your comments. I am glad this leads to more reflection even within an organization like Santropol Roulant that has taught me a lot. I love the question.”What does it mean to be engaged with an organization?” May we never get to the end of that.

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