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Dublin: 13 °C Tuesday 25 October, 2016

Column: Giving away money can lead to priceless experiences

How can people benefit from giving away free money? The organiser of Free Money Day, Donnie Maclurcan explains all you need to know.

Donnie Maclurcan

Want some free cash? Keep your eyes peeled tomorrow for people handing out their very own hard earned cash on the street. So what’s it about? Donnie Maclurcan, co-founder of the Post Growth Institute and organiser of the event explains:

FREE MONEY DAY is a global invitation for people to explore, in a liberating and fun way, what it might be like if our relationship to money was a little different. A couple of years ago we formed a group called the Post Growth Institute which is made up of volunteers from around the world. We came up with about 70 ideas to create beneficial change in terms of global economic futures. Free Money Day was one of them.

Often groups that are looking at alternative economic futures and social change run important, yet reactive campaigns in relation to what they don’t want. We wanted to have an entry point into these important discussions about financial futures but do so in a playful and fun way that gets both participants and receivers of free money, thinking differently.

Last year was the first run of the social experiment and we had 68 events in total. We are already at 67 this year but hope to pass to 100 by Saturday. The event can take place anywhere in the world and anyone can get involved.

There is no one way to do it – in 2011, some people left money around in different places, others posted money in letterboxes, some gave it out on the train or in public squares, all sorts of things.

The event is open to absolutely anyone. People have even taken up this experiment with out actually using money at all. Some person in South Korea is giving away the equivalent of $30,000 by donating half their land to a land trust, while a shop owner in Portugal is giving away DVDs in their video store and asking people to pass on to strangers the money they would have spent. Another person in Adelaide is giving away services in editing and design – it is not just about the money.

I have heard of people reacting in very different ways – some have broken down and cried saying they have never been gifted anything before and others being very inspired by it and saying they are going to go and do something in return for the act of kindness, others have questioned the idea of money and debt – there is a range of experiences.

Anniversary of Lehman Brothers

The reason we decided to choose the 15 September is because it is the day Lehman Brothers, one of the world’s largest investment banks, filed for bankruptcy. This incident triggered a series of events which contributed to global financial mayhem, the repercussions of which are still being felt today. Historically, it is a big day and yet it is not one that is well remembered – although it is interesting that it is around this time this year that Occupy Wall Street is returning in force.

The 15th September, 2008, was a huge day for the world. It really started to cascade internationally after that and Free Money Day is one way to mark that day and to get people thinking about what it really means for our future to live in a world of ever-increasing debt. Through the derivatives market, trillions of dollars are gambled so speedily by people whose identities we rarely get to know. Traders are playing around with people’s lives and livelihoods. And then for things to come tumbling down and for those people to be bailed out because certain banks were ‘too big to fail’ – that, for our group, is something we think people should question and be able to ask – hey what is it exactly that is going on here? But to explore those questions through an inspiring experience, rather than a protest, hopefully puts a different spin on things.

Free Money Day is a fun and exciting means to have the courageous conversations we need around things like ‘how much money is enough?’, ‘do we always need to grow our economies?’, ‘how well is economic competitiveness really serving us?’ and ‘does sharing make more common sense?’

Act of kindness

The thing we are trying to get across to people is it can be small – it can be giving away £1 notes in the street – like a random act of kindness. And whether that results in a conversation or not doesn’t really matter – sometimes it is just about putting that good intention out there and who knows where that will lead.

The face-to-face marketing and soliciting of donations for the not-for-profit sector has seemingly caused donor fatigue and so when people see others asking people to stop on the street they often groan internally and try to steer clear. In this light, people can be wary of unsolicited acts of generosity, asking  – whats the catch?

But there is no catch to Free Money Day.

Free Money Day can start conversations but it is as much about sparking an experience. I gave money to about 1000 people last year, with half of those I barely exchanged any words. It didn’t matter, because the experience was priceless.

Free Money Day takes place around the world tomorrow. For more information or to get involved click here.

Donnie Maclurcan, is co-founder of the Post Growth Institutean international group exploring paths to global prosperity that don’t rely on economic growth. He is also the founder and ideas guy at Project Australia – a community organisation helping people start, scale or sustain Australian not-for-profit initiatives.

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