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Sharing is caring: why handing out money is a good practice

Sharing is caring: why handing out money is a good practice

The global economy, even before its evolution and sophistication, was and is about access; about controlling access to resources, knowledge and markets. Economic growth for any one nation is also predicated on this same concept of access. However, as the many of the current economic, political and social systems are set up, only a small percentage of a given population benefit from a nation’s acquired access. They have privileged access through geography, patronage, gender, status, nepotism, corruption, and family history. For example, in the U.S, the top 20% of the population have 85% of the wealth. This year, the poverty rate in the U.S hit 15.1%, or 1 in every 6 people. In Australia, according to a report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the wealthiest 20% of households in account for 62% of total household net worth. Research has also shown that such wealth inequality is not truly understood by the public.

“I think one of the reasons that we see people having a disconnect between understanding how much wealth inequality there really is, is this very strong American belief in the ability to be socially mobile and to be mobile with your wealth. So people have very strong beliefs that across generations and even in their own life they can go from rags to riches. And it’s certainly possible. I mean one of the fantastic things about America is that that is in fact possible. But it’s much, much rarer than people believe, and especially wealth transmission, so money that goes from generation to generation to generation is very flat. So it tends to perpetuate a great deal over time” (Prof. Michael Norton, Harvard Business School).

Wealth in very uneven in its distribution, both in the U.S and Australia, and across the world. Yet, international institutions continue to push for economic growth-oriented policies in international development contexts. These policies are deeply rooted in a particular understanding and histories of industralisation, capitalism and growth. However, there are others, such as many UN agencies, smaller actors such as Non-Government Organisations (NGOs), Community-Based Organisations (CBOs), and individuals like Amartya Sen, who push for a broader understanding of, and approach to, development. Ones that encompass well-being, social, environmental and human development, reframing concepts of freedom and happiness without the intense focus on wealth.

However, this concept of access has trickled down into our articulation of these new spaces in development, and into sectors such as microfinance and education. It is believed that greater access to, and control of, finances and credit will empower and reduce poverty. Yet, the evidence is far from conclusive. In education, for example, the eight Millenium Development Goals (MDG) articulate access. In particular, MDG number two and three which relate directly to education say nothing of learning. Indeed, it is not even stated in the MDGs whether children need to learn once they are in a classroom. It was wrongly assumed or just not considered. It is only recently that international attention has prioritised a post-access agenda as data reveals declining standards, high dropout rates, and low achievement rates in countries such as Uganda, Ghana and India. Although there has been remarkable success in striving towards the MDGs, in some cases, we are seeing rising levels of inequity. For example, according to a World Bank report on Ghana, a girl in a rural area from the poorest quintile is 13.9 times more likely not to have attended school than a boy in an urban area from the richest quintile. This is despite the government achieving almost universal primary school access and an average GDP growth rate of 5% over the past decade.

It is not such a far leap to then say that the access agenda is characteristic of very individualist societies, and has perhaps contributed to a blindspot on equity.

The conventional wisdom holds that if a child has access to education, then it is their responsibility to take advantage of it. Traditional educational pedagogies encourage individualism and competition. Through learning activities, standardised assessment tasks and even whole systems. Complimented by extra-curricular activites, children are constantly encouraged to compete against their peers; even when with a team, they compete against a team of their peers. Education systems are geared towards giving children a competitive advantage throughout their lives.

But, what if we were able to change this narrative? To encourage truly collaborative learning, in which children share knowledge, ideas, resources rather than compete for access? If we want to challenge the current economic growth model, then it must start with education. An initiative of the Post Growth Institute, an international group seeking to inspire people to explore paths to global prosperity that do not rely on economic growth, is beginning the challenge through an innovative and participatory approach. On September 15th, at various public locations worldwide, people will hand out their own money to complete strangers, two coins or notes at a time, asking the recipients to pass one of these coins or notes on to someone else. The aim is to raise awareness and start conversations about the benefits of economies based on sharing, as well as offering a learning experience that gets us thinking more critically and creatively about our relationship with money and how we could have new types of economic activity. It would be great to see this event adapted to schools to include children, teachers and parents in conversations about not just economies, but education, based on sharing.

To learn more, and to participate, visit:


This is a cross-post with the Post Growth Institute

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Brendan Rigby

Managing Director & Co-founder at WhyDev
Brendan is an education specialist and co-founder of WhyDev. He is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education exploring complementary basic education and the literacy practices of out-of-school children in northern Ghana. Formerly, he was an Education Officer with UNICEF Ghana, and Director of Venture Support with StartSomeGood. Brendan has also been an education consultant and trainer for Plan, UNICEF, ScopeGlobal and the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority. He is obsessed with tea, American football and karaoke.

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4 thoughts on “Sharing is caring: why handing out money is a good practice

  1. […] options are endless. For instance, Free Money Day would be a fantastic school-based event through which students of any age can explore the history of money and experience the […]

  2. The more I read, the more I believe that we are in the midst of a global transition. A transition to a world of equality, justice and sustainability. To a world where people share ideas freely. Where that free sharing of ideas and knowledge liberates us. It is exclusivity, the protection of private property, including intellectual property, that prohibits access for all. The internet is the tool that facilitates the free sharing of ideas. In the way that the printing press facilitated the European Enlightenment, the internet will facilitate a new era where people help each other rather than competing, where we will live in harmony with each other and with nature.

  3. Great to read your thoughts on this Brendan! I especially love what you suggested at the end: "It would be great to see this event adapted to schools to include children, teachers and parents in conversations about not just economies, but education, based on sharing." Ooooh … now the wheels are turning! Would love to hear more thoughts/ideas along these lines.

    1. Laura

      There is a great education model I was involved with recently which focuses on peer education -encouraging learning from child to child instead of a lecture based approach passed from adult to youth. The philosophies and methods of the program seem quite alligned with this discussion, it is a platform to really exchange 'sharing'.

      From the website… (
      "Something powerful happens when students teach students. It’s about:
      •Seeing themselves in control
      •Relating to one another
      •Being involved and making decisions about their own learning
      •Being empowered
      •Taking responsibility for their learning
      •Being involved in authentic learning
      •Making connections and seeing the bigger picture
      •Constant reflection
      •Developing a solid knowledge base
      •Thinking creatively, communicating, co-operating and problem solving in their environment
      •Creating resilient young people with a sense of purpose and belief in a bright and compelling future"

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