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The Scarcity Matrix

“What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your brain, driving you mad.” –Morpheus, The Matrix

I am among the last of my generation to see The Matrix. For whatever reason I’d missed it when it came out, late in the twentieth century. It had come up regularly in conversation over the years, but somehow remained on that list of things I should see but likely never would.

Two weeks ago, it became a sudden, urgent priority.

I had been sitting in a National Arts Strategies leadership seminar at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business in Ann Arbor. It had already been a powerful few days of provocations and confrontations with many of the basic assumptions underpinning the world of nonprofit arts.

All of a sudden, I had the visceral sensation of a melting away, a fog lifting, a waking up. It was physical and it was emotional. It stopped my breath.

Russell Willis Taylor, National Arts Strategies’ Executive Director, found me at the next break. “Well, that was interesting,” she said. “Did you see the reaction around the room?” I had not noticed. I had been in my own world.

“I feel like I just peeked behind the curtain of something,” I said to Russell. “Like I just saw The Matrix, and I’ve never even seen that movie.”

“Well, you must,” she said. “And be sure and take the red pill.”

I had no idea what she meant but the moment I got home I streamed the movie. And the viewing helped me to make sense of what it was that I was experiencing in that Michigan classroom.

The Splinter
For years I have been thinking about, and talking about (some would say ad nauseum), the feeling I have that we are snatching scarcity from the jaws of abundance. That we live in a time of muchness. That we live, I would even say, in a time of enough, maybe even more than enough, and yet we only experience it as a struggle over scarcity. We approach the world of nonprofit theatre as though we are in a zero-sum universe, where everything I have means one less thing that you can have. We compete for every opportunity like it is the last opportunity there will ever be, sharpening and wielding our competitive advantage like a scalpel, carving as much of the market as we can. Once we start to succeed at this competition we hoard, as though tomorrow we could be out in the cold. Whether it is in endowments or in grants and residencies or in over-booking ourselves with gigs, we take everything that comes our way out of fear nothing else ever will. And for many of us these are truths—there are no opportunities for us; there are no resources coming our way. But rather than question the system and our resulting behaviors, we operate from a sense that scarcity is an immutable law of the universe, like gravity, and selfishness our only hedge against ruination.


We compete for every opportunity like it is the last opportunity there will ever be, sharpening and wielding our competitive advantage like a scalpel, carving as much of the market as we can.


Man holding two pills
What pill will you take? The infamous Red Pill v. Blue Pill of the Matrix.
Photo by Quora.

But is it? Fifty years ago R. Buckminster Fuller told us that we already have enough resources and know-how to take care of everyone on the planet at a level unheard of in human development. “It no longer has to be you or me. Selfishness has no integrity whatsoever.” Fifty years ago! And this man has his own US Postal Service stamp. So. He knew a thing or two.

But back to Ann Arbor, and that business school boot camp. We were fresh from a rather aggravating morning session on negotiation that had, in its final fifteen minutes, blossomed into a revelation about rethinking the whole process of negotiation. Shirli Kopelman was asking that we think of negotiation not as something defined by winners and losers but rather as an opportunity to create capital through the coordination of resources. Now, many of you will say you have evolved past the place of treating negotiation as a tug of war. You’ve “never viewed negotiating as a zero-sum game,” you regularly have “gotten to Yes,” you “always meet in the middle,” or “find a win-win every time.”

But what Dr. Kopelman was proposing was much more provocative than any of that. Meeting in the middle, she says, is “lose-lose, not win-win.” She suggests, instead, that we start from the gap between what I have and what you need and build a resource bridge over that gap—looking very expansively at what we have and what we need. That we not let the conversation become boxed in around money. That we figure out how to create value in this negotiation, value that can bridge the gap that money alone cannot, by coordinating all of our available relevant resources. What do you have, in addition to money, that can help me? What do you need, other than money, that I can contribute to the resource bridge? By adding things to the pot, we are accessing the abundant world around us and creating wealth for each of us that would not have been brought into circulation if we hadn’t negotiated.

Wait, what? Negotiating not as a tug of war with winners and losers, but as a process of creating value and unlocking wealth? Negotiation not as a test of my skill at getting, for me, as much as I can from you but as a process of aligning resources for both of us? Negotiation is a process of “resource coordination”? Was I hallucinating? Or, was she?

The session was over too soon for me to ask Dr. Kopelman which one of us was high. I trundled off to the next one, led by another exceptional guide, Paula Caproni. And she launched right into a session on “The Leader as Influencer.” To illustrate the concept of Influence, she began by borrowing a quote from Robert Cialdini’s groundbreaking work with Marketing. Influence, he says, is the “deliberate, systematic process of getting others to support your ideas.” Deliberate. Systematic. Process. Those three words seemed to hang in the air, and echo as if from down a long hallway. A flickering began. Influence is deliberate, it is a systematic process, and it is getting me to do what someone else wants me to do.

To achieve influence marketers use cognitive shortcuts. These are triggers that cut through the natural tendency to avoid making a decision and steer the decider in their direction. We watched this video, which illustrates Dr. Cialdini’s Six Universal Principles of Influence:

  1. Reciprocity
  2. Scarcity
  3. Social Proof
  4. Liking
  5. Authority
  6. Commitment and Consistency

The Scarcity Matrix
Right there in the list: Scarcity as a Universal Cognitive Trigger for getting people to act as you want them to.

And the definition of The Scarcity Principle reads “This principle says that things are more attractive when their availability is limited, or when we stand to lose the opportunity to acquire them on favorable terms.” Dynamic pricing works on the Scarcity Principle, as does the whole notion of subscription. “Act now and get the best seats on the best nights for the best price.” Don’t act now, and you’ll get worse seats on off nights for higher prices. Who wants that?

I understand this as a marketing tool. I am not comfortable with the transactional nature of the relationships that result from this marketing style, but I get its effectiveness. But suddenly in this classroom in Michigan, I begin to see we have turned the Scarcity Principle on ourselves and we now believe it is real. We have used the Universal Principles of Persuasion to convince ourselves that availability is limited, that we will lose opportunity—in short, that we are awake in a time of scarcity, rather than asleep in a world of abundance.

We have created The Scarcity Matrix.

There Is no Spoon
This is a time of huge buildings, huge endowments, huge prices, huge box office receipts, huge contracts for consultants in an ever-proliferating array of specialized skills, huge salaries for a handful of leaders, and huge amounts of cash migrating out of the nonprofit realm and right into the pockets of a handful of commercial producers, real estate developers, architects, and banks. There is just too much evidence that we are not living in a time of scarcity. There are more than a billion dollars in “dead capital” locked up in buildings and endowments no longer circulating in the field. How much money have arts consultants like TRG earned from the nonprofit community this past five years telling us how to win a larger share of the scarcity pie for ourselves? How much money has Michael Kaiser made telling us how to thrive in our time of scarcity? How much money have the Weisslers and other for-profit producers made by convincing us that this business is so expensive and there’s so little audience that they can’t afford to produce their products without access to the tax benefits of our nonprofits?

And that is just looking at the picture from the standpoint of money as the supposedly scarce commodity. When you start using Dr. Kopelman’s ideas about negotiation and you delineate all the other resources that could be used to build a bridge over the money gap, however, the true abundance of our time comes into view. Look, for example, at the number of venues currently in operation, the number of units of artist housing in the field right now, the number of training programs, the number of developmental opportunities, the number of props stored in warehouses around the country, the number of unused hours in rehearsal facilities, theatres, shops, and offices. Tally up the amount of expertise that we could be sharing with each other directly, rather than purchasing from outside the commons using money that then leaves our community. Keep going. Keep delineating the resources under our common stewardship and the evidence of abundance simply overwhelms the deliberate, systematic messages of scarcity.

There is a great scene in The Matrix where a child at the Oracle’s apartment seems to bend a spoon with his mind. He tells an astonished Keanu Reeves how it’s done: “Do not try to bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead…only try to realize the truth. There is no spoon. Then you’ll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.”

So, for years I have been dealing with Scarcity as a Spoon, and trying to bend it. But suddenly, this melting and waking and lifting and I realize: there is no spoon. My mind bends. I see the matrix.

“You think that’s air you’re breathing?”
The moment I saw The Scarcity Matrix, I started to try to find the people with their hand on the cognitive trigger. Who or what was behind this “deliberate, systematic, process” and what ideas were they moving us to support? How do I do battle with them? Clearly, like Neo, I thought, “I’m going to need a lot of guns.”

But just as it is in The Matrix, the search for a bogeyman is, ultimately, a red herring. In the film, the “evil machines” are simply the logical extension of conditions created by man that were intended originally to create shortcuts for us through the hard patches. In that film, people became enamored of ever-greater manifestations of artificial intelligence and inadvertently set in motion a process that led to their enslavement by those very machines. What if The Scarcity Matrix is simply the logical extension of everything that’s been done to turn our nonprofit theatres into sustainable businesses through the overuse of the Principle of Scarcity?

We used the Scarcity trigger to corral an audience for ourselves and hang onto them out of fear they’ll migrate to “our competitors in the market.” We adopted the Scarcity Principle to drive generations of artists into MFA factories because, without that credential they’d not be able to compete in the open market for the scarce opportunities available to new voices. We adopted the Scarcity Principle to build the endowments and a competitive advantage in our markets, and tied up that capital forever in the hands of the few, the proud, the chosen—ourselves. Now we are the gatekeepers and long lines are forming outside our doors. We used it to build our Boards, promising prospects that our Board was more prestigious and their contributions would mean more if given to “us” than to “them.” We celebrated our success in this zero-sum competitive frame with press releases about box office records, enormous donations, celebrity appearances, and transfers.


What if The Scarcity Matrix is simply the logical extension of everything that’s been done to turn our nonprofit theatres into sustainable businesses through the overuse of the Principle of Scarcity?


One of the resources is also expertise. And we have convinced ourselves, our boards, our funders, and our audiences that expertise itself is in scarce supply, and that we are at risk of our experts bolting for the greener pastures of corporate America or Hollywood if we don’t offer competitive wages and benefits to the Few Who Know. And to keep Them we need to build larger institutions, bigger buildings, and opportunities for celebrity and commercial transfers. And even these Few Who Know are in some ways convinced of their own rare abilities—they are knocking themselves out in this Scarcity Matrix, trying to make sure their organizations remain fiscally sound, artistically relevant, and contributing members of society. They are convinced they are a scarce resource, the anointed keepers of the flame. And while many have defeated scarcity for themselves, they cannot quash it for their institutions. They feel they are constantly teetering on some edge. They are isolated. They are defensive. They are overworked and underappreciated. And they are worn out.

“The Matrix is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.”
What if someone started shouting “Abundance!” in the overcrowded Scarcity Matrix and everyone suddenly woke up? What if, in waking, we immediately began the job of negotiating that abundance by coordinating the resources under our stewardship? Would we begin to imagine and create solutions to the intractable problems of our field that we simply cannot dream of in a zero-sum world? Would we start creating wealth in our field, instead of sparring over scraps? Would there suddenly be alternatives to the suffocating binaries in our Scarcity Matrix? You or me. Artists or Institutions. Men or Women. White People or People of Color. Popular or Artistic. Relevant or Excellent. Produced or Presented. Would we start trading our expertise within the ecosystem rather than monetizing—and then privatizing—it? Would we find a way to transform the “dead capital” resources and recirculate them as an alternative currency? Would we create a venture fund for nonprofit transfers rather than creating wealth for individual investors outside the ecosystem? Would we find a role for our theatres in the center of the civic life of our communities rather than on the fringes of them?

What if Buckminster Fuller was right and it “no longer has to be you or me” and “selfishness has no integrity whatsoever”?

What if we took the red pill? What if we unplugged from The Scarcity Matrix? Yes, we’d fall down a rabbit hole and we may not be able to easily predict what would happen next. Would it be better to wake up?

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Thoughts from the curator

From Scarcity to Abundance: Capturing the Moment for the New Work Sector brought over 120 theatremakers to discuss the state of the new work sector, and to attend the #NEWPLAY Festival. The convening was hosted at Arena Stage under the auspices of the American Voices New Play Institute (the precursor to HowlRound), and coincided with the official launch of the HowlRound Journal.


From Scarcity to Abundance


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The article is just the start of the conversation—we want to know what you think about this subject, too! HowlRound is a space for knowledge-sharing, and we welcome spirited, thoughtful, and on-topic dialogue. Find our full comments policy here

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Do people have specific ideas about how this applies to politically charged (left of left) advocacy organizations? For instance, my organization sues corporations so corporate money is not a possibility. Our work is a turn off to many of wealth. It is difficult to convince (some) funders to support our radical work because they cannot get it past their boards. We have always seen and believed there to be a sliver of the population that will donate to us. Perhaps even in iterating these limitations I am buying into the scarcity myth. But I can see this applying to say cancer research or after school programs or clean water for all - less so to representing detainees at Guantanamo, suing the Pope and the NYPD and the President. Would love to hear folks' thoughts. Also, Matthew Glassman - did you go to Trinity College? Are you that Matt Glassman?

At the very real risk of beating this Matrix remix into the ground, I pulled this quote as a first response to the "What comes next?" questions that have both surprised and energized me.

These are from the film's last monologue, spoken in voice over by Neo:

"I know you're out there. I can feel you now. I know that you're afraid... you're afraid of us. You're afraid of change. I don't know the future. I didn't come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it's going to begin... Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you."

In the film, Neo’s talking to the AI machines that run the Matrix. I think I am, instead, talking to the people in our field who are run BY it. We who have been artificially divided against each other in the service of Scarcity. I experience this fear of change mostly among those of us who have managed to win the zero-sum game. There seems to be less fear coming from those of us outside the gates. Outside the walls all sorts of experimentation is underway. In the Scarcity Matrix, those on the outside have less to lose.

If you picture the film for a moment, you'll see the world inside the Matrix has winners and losers as well. They are all trapped in there. There are Haves and Have Nots, but NOBODY has agency. EVERYONE is, in reality, being sucked dry by the very system their forbears created.

And a world of Haves and Have Nots, of those inside and those outside, is necessary for the smooth functioning of the Scarcity Matrix. It requires that we chase our tails instead of chasing abundance, that we compete against each other rather than against the system TOGETHER, that we remain oblivious to the control it asserts over all of us.

To me this is key: the realization that we are ALL in the same system. And that system is snatching abundance from ALL of us. For some, it is experienced in the lack of resources and opportunity. Others experience it via the Sisyphean task of trying to sustain our institutions inside a delusion of Scarcity. Let me give you the news: There will be no sustainability for anyone in this system.

Perseverance in this matrix is neither a virtue, nor a path. Perseverance and perseverate come from the same root. They both derive from a sense of staying at something past when it makes sense. I pulled this from Wikipedia: “symptoms include the inability to switch ideas along with the social context, as evidenced by the repetition of words or gestures after they have ceased to be socially relevant or appropriate…” Sound familiar?

Here we all are, trapped in the Scarcity Matrix and pitted against each other, rather than the system that’s enslaved us. And sure, we, together, have given the Haves plenty of reason to be fearful of the Have Nots. The Have Nots are boiling over in frustration at this system, calling for change, calling out the inequity where it dwells, naming names when known, amplifying the complaints at warp speed through social media mazes the Haves can't unplug. Our Have Not team is neither disciplined nor organized in the outrage over being dropped on the outside when Team Have pulled up the drawbridge a generation ago. Even many (like me) who were brought into the palace are kvetching about the way the zero-sum game works. And yes, the dialogue sometimes takes on the character of the French Revolution—on all teams. Team Have Not calling for Team Have’s heads, Team Have comforting ourselves with clever "let them self-produce" platitudes and the self-rationalizing circular logic of the Excellence Divide. ("The inside is where Excellence dwells. We are on the inside. Ergo, we are Excellent. They are on the outside. Ergo, They are not Excellent.") Team Have Not has had it with the lack of equity and is starting to tally up the inequities, widely, loudly and publicly. And Team Have has had it with the drip, drip, drip from Team Have Not; declares they are not accountable to the idealism of Team Have Not; dismisses the clamor as the stuff of theorists who don't have to work in the real world. Team Have has stopped listening and are now talking only to each other.

And meanwhile, nothing of value is created. And no challenge is mounted to the Scarcity Matrix.

Let’s not be afraid of change. Let’s be afraid of stasis. Down that road lies certain ruin.

"I don't know the future. I didn't come here to tell you how this is going to end."

This feels like a bit of a cop out to me. We don't know the future, it's true. And I can't tell anyone how it is going to end. But I have role in creating that outcome. So do you. Whether you fill it actively or passively, to be in this field at this moment is to share a responsibility for its future.

And I am calling on each of us to take up that responsibility. We cannot prevail against the Scarcity Matrix without the active participation, imagination, and collaboration of both those inside and those outside working together as a field.

There is only so much people can do about generating abundance within the current system. We can only share what we have under our stewardship. The vast majority of the wealth at the heart of our abundance is in the hands of a very few individual leaders and has gotten locked away from circulation inside the institutions we lead. Those resources must circulate, if not as cash then as some other resource: time, expertise, access, materials, space. We who steward those resources are needed at the table to create this alternative to scarcity. And we who have been struggling outside the gates of opportunity, we are needed at this table and we must come with our imaginations and creativity focused on the real prize- unlocking the abundance for the entire community. None of us can give in to the temptation to fight over the crumbs we’ve got left. We have to go together and get back the whole pie.

Someone on Twitter asked me if I didn’t think that such an effort would be “destabilizing to the institutions”. First of all, NO institution is stable in this environment of scarcity. EVERY institution is at risk, daily, and the main preoccupation in all these heavily-resourced institutions is with survival. So, it’s not, to my mind, a question of destabilizing through this effort, but perhaps it is one of Restabilizing.

Secondly, I feel certain that the focus on cash as the commodity is a pernicious distraction. Yes, if we were to suddenly discover that all endowments had to be liquidated and the cash returned to the community in some fashion, many institutions would collapse immediately. And with them very important elements of the infrastructure would evaporate. But transmuting the value locked in endowments and buildings into some other currency seems to offer a way to recirculate the capital without touching the cash. I am over my head on this and eager for help from an expert in “dead capital” and alternative currencies.

Others have suggested that only a person in a place of privilege could suggest there is no scarcity-- that it simply flies in the face of the daily reality of so many people in our field and sounds both naïve and insulting. I don’t mean to imply that we aren’t experiencing scarcity, each of us on some level and many of us in ways both dire and debilitating. What I AM suggesting is that we have, collectively, created this situation and we can, collectively, rectify it. But not in the ways we have been going about it to date.

Matthew Glassman has called for an Abundance Lab, where we can invent, test, and develop strategies for unlocking our abundance. I think this is a brilliant suggestion and would love to be part of such an effort and such an environment once we make it.

I don't intend my role to be a hatchet man, or a "drip, drip, drip", but neither do I intend to sit in the middle of the road or to be a spectator. I think, with all this Matrix stuff, I am calling to say “I woke up. I found others, already awake, when I did. You can wake up, too. And please do. We need you.”

I'm so glad you had this epiphany. I was reading an article recently that posited that the way to spark action in churches is for administrators to first create a crisis. It's the creation of a story, a myth, a manipulation to stir others, to break up apathy. And that was frightening to me, that congregants were encouraged to live out drama instead of exploring possibilities of action within a place of peace, discouraged from taking the time to understand the unfolding. Scarcity if a frightening concept that pulls people out of focus. This space you are exploring, this opportunity for nonprofits to share abundance is real life, a chance to explore feelings we rarely have, those of joy in sharing and gratitude, of creating a larger community that celebrates its members. It can be a wonderfully freeing feeling, to recognize that we live in the luxury of being able to share. I never understand politics and power when it comes to accomplishing a community goal. It's always so much better when we are working together. We and the others create our own constraints---we can also change them.

An example and a question. An example of a shared resource that DC theaters benefitted from, I remember in the 1980s that theaters (of any size) could sign up for a program that allowed nonprofits to use Federal Government space in the evenings for meetings or rehearsals!. It was a riot! On any given night, Everyday Theater (my company), Woolly Mammoth, and others were rehearsing in conference rooms down the hall from the Voice of America studios, and the Playwrights Forum (then Playwrights Unit) held its meetings in a conference room at the Office of Personnel Management. This was years before 9/11 but we still had to go through a security process to clear participants and adhere to the building's security requirements. It was planned, orderly, and effective. Talk about shared commons space!

My question: Washington DC is embarking on a Women's Voices Festival for two months in 2015. What are some ideas for using the ideas David writes about to use this Festival (dreamed up by a handful of large DC theaters) as an occasion to expand resources for women and local playwrights who are not among the chosen participants?

Just a quick note of gratitude for the engagement here, everyone. I am on the road this weekend but will try to respond substantively when I catch a break. Meanwhile, it is such a jolt to see that I am neither alone nor crazy... So thank you!

3 things.
1. I wish I had waited to see the Matrix till I was older.
2. Scarcity myth plays on our imagination. Our perception. Your essay gets to the source of all. And I say yes to beating this drum loudly, frequently. The imagination, the belief, all that we project predicates all our action. reflects how act. Let's start an Abundance Laboratory that takes different aspects, notions, examples of the scarcity myth (concrete) and puts it through a lab process, a work, an abundance blender which yields something else. Practical experiments and Dialogues in order to keep bringing more dimension and flesh to the conceptual.
3. Working in a rural place. Doing theatre on an old farm. It long ago immersed me into the world of repurposing, reinventing, reanimating lost and found stuff. Leaving me to wonder how often it is truly necessary to make new things. This reliance on throwing everything away and buying everything new and needing to constantly upgrade is perverse, uncreative, unerotic, and the opposite of alchemy.

Alchemy...another esoteric realm from where theatre derives, is founded on this belief in the natural law of abundance. Of transformation. Of something being where someone or something said there wasn't anything. Thank you David, for stimulating an ABUNDANCE of thinking, feeling, seeing.

David, I am sure you were around when the RAT Conference was going in the 1990s (I believe I attended one community meeting for it moderated by Erik Ehn when I was in San Francisco and read a few articles). Are there parallels between what you're thinking of here and what was attempted there, and if so, what can we learn from that earlier model in terms of implementation/experimentation?

Also, a crazy top-of-my-head thought: what would it take to establish some kind of microloan program within various theater communities? I hear so many stories of companies that are having temporary shortfalls (waiting for grants, box office not meeting expectations, etc.) and that just need a bridge loan of some sort to keep producing or keep the lights on until a guaranteed funding source comes through. Sure, individual donors are ideal, but would some sort of shared emergency fund providing short-term small loans to meet temporary shortfalls be a way of expanding their influence?

Thanks for the reminder about the RAT Conference, Kerry. Those were some heady days, for sure! But as I recall, we were, in that case, working entirely within the Scarcity frame, trying to use it to our advantage. A lot of energy and creativity burst out of that, but it left the Matrix intact in the end. Still, though, an important shot across the bow. Found this article for those who don't know about it: http://www.ratconference.co...

Thank you, David. I have been thinking about these issues a lot in two spheres I work in -- theatre and academia. All you hear is scarcity and NO. Yet I wander around both of these institutions when hallways are quiet, rooms are empty, spaces go unused and think about what I long for, particularly, as a playwright. HOME and productions. Those two things far outweigh money. But if you don't have those things, you start to get very cranky and think, well, dammit, I'm going to at least go get some money. But HOME is really the big one. Ongoing relationships with institutions, not just the one-night stand that is the occasional production. And by "production" I mean the opportunity to be in the room with other artists building a piece of theatre. That's what I crave. Getting to be in the room. And those opportunities feel more and more scarce. Both in theatre and academia. And still, I walk by big open spaces that I dream could be filled with people making stuff happen together.

Right! One of the most glaring results of this system is that it creates scarcity of opportunity! What is really in the way of "getting in a room"? Time and space-- both of which we have in abundance. Do we need to pay each other to do it? Sometimes, of course, people need to be paid. But not everything needs to start from money-- we have been told it does, that anything we do that doesn't "value our worth" is less than professional, something not actually Art. At Emerson College, the students are entirely overwhelmed by their own art-making. Pretty much every spare minute they are making theater, film, media art. It makes me optimistic about the future to see these young people just "making stuff" rather than waiting for permission from the gatekeepers.

Yes, we can change our approach to sharing the resources we have. The sharing economy has many examples we can learn from - co-housing movement, car sharing, worker-run co-ops, community supported agriculture. However, we also need a realistic analysis of current wealth distribution, which according to Thomas Piketty, has returned to a level of inequality comparable to pre-World War I in the US. Scarcity is not just a concept; capital is not being distributed to benefit the middle class, and that has a significant impact on our audiences and on us as citizens.

Thanks for pointing us to other examples of alternative economies. They bolster the sense that there are other ways of being.

I want to pick up your comment about Scarcity not just being something conceptual. This is an area that I think I've not been fully clear. I agree entirely that the impact of the Scarcity Matrix is to create very real scarcity in the nonprofit theater community. And the impact of that scarcity is felt harshly by many of us.

What I don't believe, though, is that this is inevitable, or that it is the best we can do. So in that sense, the Scarcity Matrix is a construct that has created a very real impact on us day to day that is named "scarcity". But as with the examples of other sharing-economy movements, we know we can make different choices within our ecosystem and move beyond it.

Dave - I love where this conversation is going and the positive impact it creates! The world - our minds, our institutions, and so much more - so often constrains us to see it simply as black & white and think zero-sum, when resource abundance is all around just waiting to be noticed and added to the mix. It's more noisy at first, but resources can be eloquently interwoven to create more value for everyone! Thanks for such an inspirational write-up - it inspires and energizes me! Shirli

I LOVED this article and love all of the ideas contained in and sparked by it. But I also cant stop thinking about one other particular commodity: time. To implement these changes, to build a foundation in a community (starting with your organization) where resource sharing like this can happen and a new form of currency can be developed so that money that would normally be spent on those resources can be put elsewhere, this kind of logistical coordination and execution takes a great deal of time invested on the part of those running companies. To a certain extent the larger companies may have a tendency to maintain the status quo, because they are at least sustaining as is. So it strikes me as a grassroots idea to build and implement in the early stages, especially as the grassroots institutions are those who I believe can most immediately, directly and impactfully (not a word but I dont care) benefit from such a model. BUT, those same institutions are run by folks who often have day jobs to pay the bills, day jobs that take up more time than we would like, and thus take up the energy and time that would be necessary to really create a practice out of these ideas. So by that logic, it comes back to money - the money necessary to pay a staffer so they can have the time to focus and build upon these ideas and put them into action.

While this is a cynical stance, I do really believe in EVERYTHING here! I just want to figure out a way for those grassroots staffers to be able to find the operational funds so that the time can then exist to nurture this landscape that will then free up more funds to pay more people/put into other areas, and all-the-while building community. *breath*

I hear you, Josh. And it points to the privilege of my position that I have space, a salary, AND some time to be thinking about this stuff and attempting to use all of that to break the spell of scarcity. But there are many in my position in the field with that privilege that have turned it more inward, or more toward the impossible task of achieving sustainability for their institution. I would challenge whether any is sustaining, really. They are staving off collapse, if you ask them they feel no more secure or thriving than smaller and indie companies or emerging artists do. So, I think it will take a bunch of us, from all corners of the community, to come at this together. The Abundance Lab is a perfect idea. Like an ArtsForward or a National Arts Strategies program. Or an initiative like the New Gens program at TCG. Give people a focused time, space to collaborate on it, and the resources to test and develop the best ideas, then disseminate them widely. We cannot do it without the active participation of the people with the most resources, nor can we do it without those with the most to gain.

Yes! In the SF Bay Area we have a free space listing service: http://www.bayareaspaces.org/. Each venue can link their profile to their rental calendar, so artists in need of a space for rehearsal, performance, or class can find exactly what they need, quickly. Free to both venues and renters. It's a start!

Profound article. Although resources are abundant, the current challenge is to invent wide-spread methods of efficient distribution. Our addiction to institutions comes from how useful they were in the past, but an era of greater independence seems to be emerging.

What kinds of networks, other than Howlround, can we use to accomplish this?

Well, to be honest, I'm not entirely sure. I guess what i mean is if we are to function in a new age of abundance, we need a new way of organizing data that has, until now, remained under the radar. This would make resources much easier to access and to have the negotiations that David mentions in his article.

I suppose this could be accomplished via social media, a website, or an app, but I'm sure it could manifest in a variety of ways. I am super interested in what kind of effect this mentality might have when it comes to generating/sharing audiences.

Ok, how many people can I forward this link to? How many conversations can this spark? How many times will I reread this? YES! THANK YOU! YES. I am dying of thirst by the shores of an enormous, fresh-water lake...

This is why I keep banging the drum for the Never Be Dark ideal. We have the spaces, the time, the ability, why aren't we using them? Why aren't we inviting people into our buildings--both performers and audience members--whenever we can?

Beautiful work, sir. But please, don't watch the sequels. Good Lord, don't watch the sequels. (Though "The Animatrix" is quite good.)

I second the advice not to watch the sequels. Just enjoy the awesomeness of the first movie and think of the sequels as more like...suggestions.

We have the spaces, the time, the ability, why aren't we using them? Why aren't we inviting people into our buildings--both performers and audience members--whenever we can?

This is something that's always perplexed me. For a community that specializes in creativity, it's a wonder that so little of it is applied to how we can help one another achieve success (however we define that).

Never Be Dark is a simple and powerful example, David. It overstates, a bit-- "never" being a big word-- but it drives home the point that these resources are not circulating sufficiently or stewarded on behalf of the whole. Our spaces are infrastructure. They were built with public dollars. They are built to serve a public benefit. Imagine if we said "this highway is only available to me and my donors, and it is closed at our convenience."

YES! yesyesyesyes! I started a newsletter with the hopes of shouting abundance. People are coming on board. THIS IS HAPPENING!

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