Gift Circles

Every six months or so Transition South Lantau has a Swap Party where people bring along items which can be swapped for things brought by other people. If you bring eight items, you’re entitled to take eight items, with no money exchanging hands and everything being treated as of equal value. These are usually very successful affairs. We also tried to do book swaps where you could swap one of yours for somebody else’s, as so many good and important books sit on shelves and remain untouched for years. This was a way of trying to circulate them. Both schemes help us to disentangle ourselves a little from the blandishments of consumerism, but it’s always seemed to me that there’s so much more that we could be doing to circulate, not just our unwanted goods, but our skills as well.
At the heart of the Transition Movement is the idea that there is a tremendous source of creativity, knowledge, skills and abilities within any local community, which, to a large extent, goes untapped, and which we ought to be using to build the resilience of those communities, enabling them to respond more effectively to the onslaught of global warming, peak oil and economic decline. So, it was a pleasure to find out about Gift Circles, which were mentioned in a recent article by Charles Eisenstein.

The idea is that 10-20 people meet occasionally and, sitting in a circle, say what they are in need of, or what they have to offer someone else. It can be anything: somebody may want a lift somewhere, someone may want to borrow a lawn mower, or a particular book; someone else may have some piece of furniture they no longer want, or they may be willing to offer English or Chinese lessons, or perhaps they can do massage or teach art; somebody may want to know who to contact in the government to get something done, or maybe they want to start a campaign and want advice on how to go about it. The things that we have to offer or want to use may be minor, everyday things or they may be skills or knowledge of greater significance. It doesn’t matter: it can be anything.

I think this would be beneficial to all concerned insofar as particular needs can be met, but also in terms of building community, drawing closer to others you may not otherwise see much of, and developing a greater appreciation of the wide-ranging and deep fund of experience there is in your local community. I propose that we start a gift circle in Mui Wo as soon as we can get 10 or more people interested. We can meet as often as we feel we want to. At the moment there’s me and Kate Ringrose. If anyone else in the area is interested to give it a go, please contact me at

Don Latter


About transitionsl

I've been an English teacher for the best part of 30 years, teaching in England, Tanzania, Brunei, Australia and Hong Kong. I've always been interested in nature and environmental issues, but it was the discovery of Peak Oil about five years ago that galvanised me into trying to help my local community to prepare for what will be a dramatically different world to the one many of us have been used to. I've been helping to run a transition group, following the guidelines created by Rob Hopkins's Transition Movement in the UK. This blog is an attempt to engage in discussion with a wider group of people in Hong Kong on the ways to transition from our current oil dependency to a state of fossil-free local resilience.
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