Money Can be a Gateway to Human Connection and Global Justice
Free Money Day is a transformative experience that highlights our shared humanity and shows that a more generous world is possible. Each year on September 15th, people take to the streets to hand out money, two notes or coins at a time, asking recipients to pass one on. As Covid continues, there’s also the option to leave money as a surprise or give money digitally.
The financial system feels oppressive, but money can be a gateway to human connection – and global justice and equity. Free Money Day is a unique chance to inspire more critical and creative thinking about our relationships with money and how we can have new types of economic activity.
The first Free Money Day took place on September 15th 2011, which means that 2021 is our 10th anniversary! To celebrate, we take a look back at the last decade of events, as people across the world experienced the transformative and inspiring power of sharing and generosity.
At the inaugural Free Money Day, ”participants everywhere seemed to engage with the deeper ideas behind the event. As a result, the conversations that emerged on the ground, in cyberspace, in print, and on the airwaves were dynamic, and already wheels are turning in new directions.” That year, Canadian journalist and activist Murray Dobbin used Free Money Day to urge media and governments to begin seriously attending to news and policies that do not present growth as the only economic option.
In 2012, Bayo and Ej Akomolafe drew inspiration from the message of Free Money Day, despite being unable to participate on the day due to work commitments. Bayo said: “We may have missed out on the Day, but we haven’t missed out on the days that it birthed. Ej and I have since given out lots of money. Being academics, we tend to live isolated lives – hunched over a new book or our slides for a pending presentation. The Day inspired us to connect with others, to see ourselves as conduits of the universe’s bountiful wealth, to realize that we are songs that the impeded stream sings. Ej bakes great cakes, and we are finding ways to share them with those around us!
Over the years, our experiences showed that people feel more comfortable giving, than receiving. In 2014, for example, PGI team member Jennifer Hinton said it took her and three friends over an hour to give away 35 Euros in Athens, Greece. In 2015, we explored this idea further. “Free Money Day offers such a liberating opportunity,” wrote PGI team members Tegan Tallulah and Donnie Maclurcan. “While the day is certainly a chance for people to push through personal inhibitions about engaging with strangers, it offers an even greater opportunity to expand our ability to receive. In wrestling with the judgments we place on ourselves in relation to money and our worthiness, we more clearly see the pervasive influence of mainstream stories about human nature (if we are essentially greedy and separate from each other, how could we possibly give freely to a complete stranger?). With love and vulnerability at the heart of the Free Money Day exchange, we can continue to collectively heal the rifts that emerge in any scarcity-based culture.”
Fast forward to 2018, which marked 10 years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered the 2008 financial crash. While the global economy appeared to be roaring, the hidden story of the ‘economic boom’ was that debt kept rising, because money continued to accumulate. At that point, global debt had reached US$247 trillion. Free Money Day that year was a chance to remind people that debt is temporary when money constantly circulates. Free Money Day was about encouraging people to keep spreading the word that for our economy to work, we need profits to constantly circulate.
From the rise of mutual aid groups to renewed interest in how to create a more fair and equal society, 2020 sparked an abundance of kindness, sharing, and community. As we enter an era of unprecedented challenges and complexities, Free Money Day is more relevant than ever.