Our Vision of a Gift Economy
Our ultimate vision is to support our programs, teachers, and staff through a gift economy, where payments and offerings are not seen as transactional or commodified, but rather money and resources flow from where they exist to where they are needed in a cycle of generosity.
We want to ensure that there are no teens barred from the opportunity to attend our programs due to the systemic injustices spanning generations that have left many families and communities economically vulnerable.
We have determined our current tuition structure to be as progressive and equitable as possible, while being as grounded in our current economic framework as necessary for financial sustainability. The policy and payment structure is set at a contribution of 1% of family income per teen per retreat, up to the full $2,500 cost of the retreat. We acknowledge that our policy is still regressive in that it uses a fixed percentage to calculate tuition. This structure disadvantages lower income earners whose basic expenses are a much higher proportion of their overall income than what is needed for basic expenses for high income earners. Our structure also favors very high-income earners, as we cap our tuition at $2,500, essentially treating someone who makes $250,000 the same as someone who makes $750,000 a year.
We hold the intention to move towards a more progressive tuition policy, where resources flow from those families and communities with more resources towards those communities and teens with the least, with full willingness in both giving and receiving. Our programs are only possible because of the contributions of each member of our community – every teen, mentor, teacher, parent, office staff, and the wider world of mindfulness – so our vision includes the needs and resources of each member, as well as the whole iBme community.
Accomplishing this vision would represent a significant shift in our cultural collective consciousness. In dominant American culture, we do not orient towards other peoples’ needs but instead orient towards concepts of “deserve” and “fairness” or “equality” within the context of vastly inequitable economic systems. We also orient towards notions of value (price) being measured by the market rather than by sustainability needs.
Our plan is to continue to experiment with different ways of engaging with money that continues to move us from where we are now to where we want to be. We want to continue to learn and improve our system until teens and their families and communities fully understand and engage with it in ways that are sustainable for all. Towards that end, we welcome your feedback on this evolving process!
At first, I was definitely concerned about the price tag, my parents could definitely not afford to pay for me to go [on retreat], and how could I ask them to pay for me to go to a camp just because I think I’d enjoy the experience? But I found that there was financial aid available and that iBme fit in the one week I had off from a different (free) summer camp I had that summer, so I took that as the signal from the universe telling me to apply, and I was lucky enough to go there with a generous scholarship. Being a part of iBme was a unique experience from day one.
– Teen Retreat Alumni