It’s been a big week for STREAT. The trainees are in. We’re trading in Fed Square. And the STREAT team has been rolling up their sleeves, donning the trainers, and pushing those half-tonne carts around the Square every morning and late afternoon.
This makes me think about generosity, and what a difference it can make in the everyday. Last month the New York Times (my favourite required reading) wrote about a woman in Brooklyn who is giving $100 dollars to people to give away in creative ways. My old roomates were part of this little experiment, called the Creative Philanthropy project. Watch them pay people to talk to a stranger, with the option of holding hands with a stranger and walking around Bryant Park. For three walks people were paid $18. It seems like this little experiment produced some unexpected moments of social cohesion—a generous gift among the hustle of city life.
Another friend Charlie wrote on his blog Do Good Well about how social enterprise benefits from a culture of generosity. Traditional businesses compete for market share, whereas social business will thrive the more we grow the field. Our customers benefit when offered diverse options so that they can choose to consume responsibly across as many products and services as possible. This is intuitive and practical reasoning.
I’ve seen some old-fashioned generosity happening in Melbourne as well. Social Traders and STREAT recently co-hosted the “Socially-enterprising Foodie’s Forum” (now a quarterly event) so that players in the food and social enterprise space can exchange ideas and learn from one another. Maybe one day this will develop into a network for consumers, a benchmark like Fair Trade that certifies social and environmental outcomes, but for now it’s enough to exchange lessons learned as the industry starts to form. Social enterprise is new to Australia, and any exchange of resources and hob-nobbing of like-minded folk is bound to produce good outcomes.
I’ve spent the last week dividing my time between the food carts in Federation Square and the orientation of the STREAT trainees. At Fed Square we’re interrupting people’s busy days to pitch the idea of a social enterprise helping homeless youth by selling street hawker food. Despite the crazy (or crazy audacious) idea that it is, we’ve got good reception so far, and even offers from people who want to volunteer, and help spread the word that STREAT has come to town. The trainees have been doing a Foodie tour of the Victoria Market and getting their uniforms from William Angliss. In the midst of this, there’s a whole host of people—staff and volunteers—who are working flat-out to make the trainees’ experience as positive and engaging as possible. That effort is generous indeed. After all, it’s the little moments of individual generosity that build a greater culture. It can be the smallest interactions that change a person’s world view towards a wider embrace of their potential, and what they can achieve.
So what moments of generosity have you experienced?
What has touched your life and changed its direction?
How do you give gladly and give well?