Pay It Forward……
I came across this idea recently after chatting with someone at a party. It’s by no means new although it was to me and I thought I’d share it with you. It seems to me to be a concept that’s wonderfully in keeping with the ideas that Rice Up embodies and generally building a new style of social economy out of the wreckage of our current model.
For those who haven’t encountered it before, it’s very simple. You give someone something or do something for them but instead of asking for anything in return you just ask that they ‘pay it forward’ by helping someone else. It’s an easy way of spreading positive change.
When I say it’s not new I really mean that – looking it up on Wikipedia I found that the original concept appears to have been described by Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Benjamin Webb dated April 22, 1784 where he wrote:
“I do not pretend to give such a Sum; I only lend it to you. When you meet with another honest Man in similar Distress, you must pay me by lending this Sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the Debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity. I hope it may thus go thro’ many hands, before it meets with a Knave that will stop its Progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money.”
The term “pay it forward” (PIF) was coined, or at least popularized, by Robert A. Heinlein in his book Between Planets, published in 1951 and there is now a Pay it Forward Foundation whose central tenet is to pay forward education to children and their parents.
PIF seems to have lots of pros and, as far as I can see, no cons. Bartering systems require an agreement over the relative worth of the goods or services to be exchanged and ‘swap clubs’ similarly get into difficulties when people try to abuse the system to get more than they are due. And, of course, such two way systems can only function if you have something that you can offer each other. PIF avoids all these problems.
It can, of course, require a degree of trust that ‘what goes around comes around’ and that you might be able to get help when you need it. But it seems to me that we could do a lot worse than give this a go and try to seed a new sense of community by very simple acts of altruism.
How about passing this idea forward?