What is the issue?
For all its positives, money plays a lead role in eroding our communities. On the one hand, the use of money negates the need for trust and relationships between trading parties. On the other, ever hungry for growth, our interest-based financial system obliges us to monetize more and more activity that was once carried out within familial or social groups locally. When there is disruption to this system, the resulting lack of connectedness leaves little local economic (or social) infrastructure for us to fall back on. How to reintroduce and foster relationships, trust and bonds between local people and organisations? How to shore up local economies so that when value of the national currency fluctuates or when access to credit is reduced, local economies can weather the storm, self-organise, develop and adapt to changing circumstances and needs?
What will the project try to achieve?
Echo is a trading network of over 500 organisations in east London that uses time as the currency, rather than money. It all runs off a website, economyofhours.com and within the Echo system, every hour of resource or expertise delivered costs one Echo, which in turn buys an hour from another member. Because of this hard-wired equality, it is a marketplace that fosters co-support and collaboration, a system that fulfils both community and commercial needs – one where the two act in symbiosis with members developing strong local relationships based on trust and reciprocity while also saving money and developing their businesses. These initial outcomes are positive and Echo must now evaluate this thoroughly as well as prove the economic case in order for the system to become sustainable.
Who might be interested in this project?
The project is already at the centre of the conversation around the ‘sharing economy’. Echo features in the research of Nesta and the Government Review currently underway. As such, policy makers, academics, broadsheet press and other enterprises are paying attention with Echo as a ‘collaborative currency’ that can stitch the sharing economy together. Aside from this, Echo provides a low cost system to local organisations that would like to using time currency in particular instances (e.g. homeless charity/mental health support group). Voluntary sector organisations are likely to be interested, especially as this is an entirely new application of the methodology.