Sliding Scales

We Are the Resistance

Economic Justice

Have noticed that all of my workshops, classes, retreats, and counselling sessions are offered on a sliding scale? This is a core value of mine and is deeply rooted in my experience with economic injustice and inequity. It’s a value that also draws from my understanding of pacifism, anarchy, and co-operative ideologies. And while a sliding scale is a mode of operation that works for me, I can understand how it’s not for everyone.

You may be asking what is a sliding scale and how does it work? How do you know how much to contribute? Valid questions. A sliding scale is a range of prices for a product or service with the intention of increasing accessibility and diminishing economic barriers. Some people who provide a sliding scale require documents to prove financial need and/or hardship but I don’t operate that way. I state the range of contributions and leave it up to you to determine how much you can comfortably and happily contribute. Whenever possible, I offer free spots as well.

A sliding scale is still a transaction and it’s one of many ways to resist capitalist competition. Why do I want to do this? Because I believe that competition creates and enforces an imbalance of power which is the driving force girding up endless suffering. I believe non-competition and mutual aid is more humane and sustainable economy.

There’s a bit of a relationship that happens between those who participate in a sliding scale because we both need to take into consideration what we value and what that’s worth to us. With sliding scales, there’s a pause and some thoughtfulness before our transaction, which I find a lot more meaningful than clicking and shopping and mindlessly sending e-transfers. 

Image and model courtesy of Another Space


Diversity is Our Strength

When determining my sliding scales, I take into account my time and the resources used to develop and deliver my offering, as well as support for the subsidies. There are usually three points on the sliding scale and the viable continuation of my vocation requires that we are both honest as we determine our level of contribution. You’ll see my sliding scales use the terms subsidized, sustaining, and supporting. These terms convey the following:

  • subsidized means you need community support to participate
  • sustaining means you can afford to participate
  • supporting means you can afford to participate and you have extra to share

A sliding scale works when there are contributions at all the levels. Together we can support one another. When first encountering a sliding scale it can sometimes be confusing and may also bring up a lot of emotions and narratives. Be gentle with yourself while you’re learning a new way of engaging with your finances. It gets easier with practice. As for determining your access point on a sliding scale, the following graphic by Alexis Cunningfolk might provide some clarification:

Image and text by Alexis J. Cunningfolk of @wortsandcunning


Rebel Yell

For the most part, a sliding scale works for me and I trust my teachings are valued. However, there have been a few times when people have taken advantage and that never feels good. Sliding scales are not common in our society and I reckon those who take advantage don’t realize that is what they’re doing. These places of misunderstanding can be an opportunity for a conversation about the value of shared experiences and perceived worth. 

The sliding scale also works for most who are participating in my offerings yet I know that some people experience more economic hardship than is reflected in my sliding scale. Therefore, whenever it’s feasible, I make free spots available because I know there are many ways to contribute and your presence is valuable. 

It’s unfortunate that we don’t learn more about money and what it represents (hint: energy). Talking about money is a great way to clear a room. Who wants to have an honest discussion about how they spend, earn, and save? It’s awkward, right? I think the shame and secrecy around money is a tactic of oppression that’s reinforced by the status quo. And I’m having none of that bullshit. Let’s talk about money! Let’s talk about our economic realities. I’m determined to operate using an economic model in opposition to our dominant capitalist system and in doing so I’m going to talk about it. I’m going to talk about sliding scales, bartering, donations, dana, mutual aid, generative economies, the commons, co-operatives, and intersectional justice.

Further reading about sliding scales by others who also use it:

For Your Contemplation

Maybe you’re familiar with sliding scales or maybe they’re a new concept for you. Either way, spending some time contemplating your relationship with money is a worthy endeavor. Our world currently operates because of vast economic disparity. It does not have to be this way. We can resist. We can create a different and more just world. 

Perhaps these journal prompts will stimulate some of your own new world dreams? You never know.

  • What has your experience been with sliding scales? Do you like them? Why or why not? 
  • How do you determine value/worth? Do you take into account the time you spend? Things received? Things given? What are the elements that contribute to perceived value?
  • When you go somewhere and there’s a sliding scale what comes up for you? 
  • How does it feel to be able to decide how much you’ll contribute? 
  • If you offer your products/services on a sliding scale what has your experience been? 
  • Does it work for you? If not, how can you make it work? If it does work, what’s successful?