The Gifting Experience

An amazing gifting phenomenon emerged during the occupation of Zuccotti Park (Liberty Square) in which strangers spontaneously organized themselves to provide food and shelter to anyone in need.  This organic emergence of mass generosity flowered for two months amidst the sky scrappers of multi-national banks and the cynicism of abused souls who looked upon the ‘occupation’ as an unsanitary oddity.

While it may seem odd to the mainstream personality that people would work night and day to feed, cloth, shelter and secure each other without receiving any type of financial compensation, to those who participated in the process of occupation, nothing could be more natural – or rewarding.

Mainstream society is build on the assumption that “resources are scarce” and that “incentives drive decision-making”, but gifting society see things differently.  Gifting societies assume essential resources such as sunlight, water, food and shelter are abundant (but possibly mis-allocated) and that personal passion drives decision-making.  The assumption of abundance allows people in gifting societies to escape the crippling fear of poverty that most people in mainstream society experience on a day to day basis.  When people let go of their fear of poverty, they can begin to embrace their true passions, but the transition isn’t always smooth – in fact it can be quite frightening.

The occupation of Zuccotti Park frightened many people not because it was unsanitary or dangerous, but because it showed people that another world is not only possible, but practical – and possible more competitive. Everyday that the occupation provided shelter to hundreds, food to thousands and entertainment to millions, was a day that the mainstream world-view was not only challenged, but replaced for something more interesting and authentic.

The original occupation of Wall Street is over, but the gifting society that spontaneously emerged out of it is not.  Those involved in the occupation experienced, for a few short months, a society free from money, coercion and hierarchy.  Occupy activists are not going back.  In fact, they’re determined to recreate the experience and spread it far and wide.

The mission of PermaBank is to give people the tools they need to engage in and spread the experience of gifting.  Our first feature is a simple gifts/wishes application in which people “offer a gift” or “make a wish.”

All of PermaBank’s code is free/libre/opensource software designed, developed and deployed by folks from the New York General Assemblies Technology Operations Group.  Check out our other projects and please please please let us know if you’d like to get involved in the PermaBank project.  We need your unique gifts, seriously!

…Solutions through Solidarity through Solutions through Solidarity…


  1. Urbaned

    Minutes for Permabank phone conference, January 30, 2012


    George: What’s going on, have we developed a more concrete spec? – No, we can – the main function that David has is writing out use cases in English…

    Use cases in English – Devin – can write out use cases…
    Uploaded on collaborative: on Bettermeans, Dashboard.

    1. Can we follow the project management outline?

    2. What do these folders mean?

    Coding: does everyone understand this page and know how to develop: ?

    epio_commands: hosting service for Python
    fixtures_site: .jason files of initialized data (empty)
    media: ?
    messaging: problems–

    These are difficult to explain because they are developer questions…
    There is a way to get at it (Ori)

    3. Devin – would like to promote the project and be able to hand them off to an environment where they can be worked on…

    What do we have to do to set up the environment?
    David: we can’t set up a schedule yet…we should have a queue of work ready with 3 or 4 top priorities…
    Having a sensitized queue…we should add that to Bettermeans…

    We have a large queue of tickets with one vote and different generality of importance, whether they were intended for this version or another one – we should categorize and prioritize them…

    The highest priority ones are the ones now on the bottom…after work session a couple of weeks ago…
    Wish fulfillment workflow…linking gifts and wishes…what user can do in first version…how to carry out wishes/gifts/how the workflow should go. We have a lot of pieces, but they are not together.

    David had put together some general flowcharts, or an English description…
    Devin will do an English description/use statement tonight…
    Put them on the dashboard of Bettermeans? They have a title, description, comments, and priority – you can take them on…Putting information in Bettermeans is the place to go..

    David: use case is a multi-step process…how can that be treated as a feature?
    Devin: there is a distinction between apps and user-stories – it’s better to have user-stories rather than individual bits or buttons on page…it’s OK for items to have multi-steps but focus on one thing user wants to accomplish…
    David: I’ll just write it out and put it in – it can be revised
    Devin: would like to work on writing out stories together.

    epio_commands: hosting service for Python – don’t worry – we will probably host on our own servers ultimately, don’t worry about epio, it’s legacy

    fixtures_site: .jason files of initialized data (empty) –

    media: uploaded pictures – not sure if we want to put all images there ultimately
    messaging: internal messaging for backend
    profiles: user-profiles
    records: (database) of gifts and wishes
    search: a way to implement internal searches in site
    settings: .django specific, application settings
    snippets: external plug-in for django we are allowing people to have little bits of text on page – dynamically stored text, Permabank/help text slogan,etc.

    static: .html, .css, unchanging content, not python code, but any items that are served along with pages, images, javascript, et.

    templates: .django specific stuff
    utils: stores functions, miscellaneous

    Developers have done SO MUCH community organizing…when we started, we had developers and power-users…we can still continue to recruit others…

    We need continuity…

    George: we need more specifications
    David Evan and he are working on gifting/fulfillment
    The most ambiguities revolve around the fulfillment process – in the first version, there will be nothing to facilitate the exchange besides putting people in touch; if people agree an exchange has happened, then if both people have a track record of their activities, then they have a reputation to evaluate them – we need a process for people to rate – relatively resistant to being gamed…
    George: we can check internal records and see if they were contacted.
    David: in the early stage, we won’t have a rock-solid system, but we can have a report system…something like airbnb, craigslist, see wiki for list of exchange software – we want to expand into our larger vision….
    We need to explore these kinds of gifting systems in more depth.