(This article is part of a series exploring and applying the seven principles of Kwanzaa.)

The fourth day of Kwanzaa is Ujamaa (oo–JAH–mah), which means supporting each other or Cooperative Economics. To build our own businesses and to profit from them together.

Ujamaa builds on the third principle, Ujima or Collective Work and Responsibility, and embodies the value of using our collective energy to economically benefit our communities. Ujamaa comes out of the African value for community-based living where wealth and resources are shared.

[Source: Read more about Ujamaa Day here.]

Many Cultures in the World Share Wealth and Resources

This principle reminds me of my Hebrew Studies class in college. I was impressed with the concept of the kibbutz in Israel, a “socioeconomic system based on the principle of joint ownership of property, equality and cooperation of production, consumption and education.”

I had this idea that we could greatly reduce homelessness in America by creating kibbutz communities. We could take empty, neglected buildings and convert them to communal settlements for the homeless, making residents responsible for tending the gardens, maintenance of the facilities, or some labor (according to his/her ability) that would contributes to the needs of the community. That was Ujamaa!

Ujamaa emphasizes our collective economic strength and encourages us to meet common needs through mutual support. The principle is illustrated by this proverb, “A bird builds with the feathers of others.” Meaning, no one is totally self-sufficient.

Your Wealth Serves The World By Your Awesome Generosity

Also, inherent in Ujamaa is the commitment of generosity, especially to the poor and vulnerable. In the book of Ptahhotep, an ancient Egyptian text, we are instructed to “Be generous as long as you live. What goes into the storehouse should come out. For the bread is made to be shared.”

My coauthors in the best-selling books Emerge and The Call to Soar practiced the generosity of Ujamaa by donating 100% of our book sales on release day to uplift children living in absolute poverty by providing access to a basic education. We added $1930 towards our goal, making our total contribution in sales and pledges so far $4927. Help us reach our Ujamaa goal! Our collective efforts will build and furnish a school house and give the entire community access to clean water, sanitation, food and nutrition, healthcare and alternative income training for parents.

President Julius Nyerere, the first President of Tanzania, notes that Ujamaa is “a commitment to the belief that there are more important things in life than the amassing of riches, and that if the pursuit of wealth clashes with things like human dignity and social equality, then the latter will be given priority.” Nyerere goes further to explain  that “Ujamaa rejects the idea of wealth for wealth’s sake as opposed to well-being for all. The creation of wealth is a good thing […] but it will cease to be good the moment wealth ceases to serve (humans) and begins to be served by (humans).”

It’s Amazing How Small Grassroots Movements Make a Big Difference

By what means will you observe the Ujamaa principle in the New Year? In response to this question, Allison McFadden, a founding member of One Degree Shift, stated that she planned to donate to four individuals on Kiva to help them start or grow their businesses. Kiva is an international crowd-lending organization that supports people looking to create a better future for themselves, their families and their communities. Their slogan is “Dreams are universal. Opportunity is not.” I love Allison’s idea!

Here are 5 more practical ways to practice Collective Economics from Grassroots Economic Organizing.

  1. Organize a buying club in your neighborhood. Items can be purchased in bulk and the cost shared so that everyone gets these items cheaper than what they would pay buying them retail.
  2. Get a group of 5-7 people together to start to save money to loan each other.
  3. Rake leaves or shovel snow for the elderly and trade them for a cooked meal, childcare, cooking lessons, or some other knowledge trade.
  4. Donate used suits of clothing that you no longer want for a young person to use to go on interviews.
  5. Organize a discussion group around local or neighborhood issues or organize support groups to share ideas and best practices. Share the knowledge.

Share your ideas on how to practice Ujamaa in the world in the comments below. Who knows, maybe we can do them together.

Could you benefit from being part of a thriving community who is willing to support you as you seek ways to make a difference in the world? If you know you will learn and grow and accomplish your dreams best with coaching, accountability, and support, then join One Degree Shift. I’d love to support you in manifesting your desires and making changes that help you create a more fulfilling life.

Get more helpful ideas on how to practice the Kwanzaa principles throughout the year.