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Time and skills as capital

Mar 01, 2019
Why you can pay not only with cash but also with talents in Vorarlberg, Austria.
Image caption:
© Town of Hohenems

Mirko spends an hour mowing Sabine’s lawn and receives 100 «talents» in return. She goes 100 into the red, but a few weeks later barters a cake for 50 talents and gives extra lessons to a school student, putting her 50 talents in credit. This is no bad thing because for Sabine, a mother of three, money is tight and lucrative side jobs are few and far between.

Thanks to the TALENTE network, established in 1996 as the basis for a fair economy, people like Sabine and Mirko can barter services and goods, such as craft items they have made themselves, vegetables from their own gardens or second-hand clothes. Such exchanges are valued and paid in terms of time: 100 talents are worth one hour or, converted into euros, around €10. Adults, teenagers or children can all be members, as well as associations and companies. Some 2,000 people in the Austrian region of Vorarlberg now use talents as an interest-free parallel currency, making this initiative Central Europe’s largest barter circle.

«Seeing how people develop their skills and share them with others is a truly wonderful experience», says Gernot Jochum-Müller, business consultant and head of the association. «It is completely different from meeting the requirements of a job profile. It unlocks creativity and inspiration.» Co-operation is fostered, people develop their skills and, for some, it even sets the foundations for their own businesses and future independence.

In 2008 the association founded a co-operative whose aim was to bring projects together. One of these is an online platform, the «Zeitpolster» [time buffer], launched in February 2018. Volunteers organise themselves into groups to take care of elderly people, for which they receive €8 an hour, with €3 paid into an emergency account that is available to helpers should they subsequently need assistance. The balance goes towards insuring the volunteers, community activities and organisational costs. A number of municipalities and social institutions have already shown interest.

More information: (de)

Filed under: social innovation