Tribal Economics 101

by TWA Founder Ben Jamin Walker

Since the beginning of time, a vital part of childhood has been playing in the woods together and discovering for yourself what it takes to function as a tribe. Human children are Makers, and they are social creatures that desire to be more than just consumers. Children want to be producers, using their own hands and minds. Kids desire this real world education, but that path can be messy. A core Tribal Wisdom Academy method toward achieving actual education and growth is to allow kids to make mistakes. And giving kids money usually does that.

So on Mondays we give each camper 10 signature Tribal Coins and only 5 simple rules, (below). The adult Mentors also find ways to add more coins into circulation to maintain a range of preferably 5 to 20 coins per child. (Parents please note: Participation in economic education is optional, and all of our regular activities do not require coins. Each child gets to choose if Tribal Money is a going to be part of their day).

Tribal Government Economic Code 19-06.03

  1. Spend or invest your Tribal Coins wisely. Discover the virtues of honesty and integrity.

  2. No banks. Secure your own coins.

  3. No selling food or drink. (But you can get a job at the TWA snack bar).

  4. No selling your daily take-home project, or other crafts that use the TWA project supplies. (Although ask the adult Mentors for craft materials that you may use to manufacture products if you want to open your own camp store).

  5. No additional camp-wide laws, unless you become a Lawmaker by getting a vote of at least 12 kids and 3 staff for a law that you wrote.

What do kids learn and do? They learn by doing! Some kids make new friends by selling memberships to their treehouse. Some make and sell crafts or art. Kids can become employers, or get a job in a kid-directed building project. Generally no additional tribal money rules are needed, and the kids who participate have a rich experience.

Actual human childhood requires real opportunities for social/emotional development.

Actual human childhood requires real opportunities for social/emotional development.