Time, not cash, is the currency as new 'bank' goes nationwide
THE country's newest bank -- which actively encourages new members to get into debt -- is going nationwide.
However, no money will change hands. Instead, time will be the currency used.
The Clonakilty Favour Exchange in west Cork -- which describes itself as the country's first ever 'time bank' -- includes the well-known Trinity College Dublin economist Constantin Gurdgiev among its members.
It was launched earlier this month so that locals in the town and its surrounds could trade skills, services and favours without money changing hands.
The scheme has proven so successful that two other exchanges are now in the process of getting on to their feet -- in Killarney and in Stillorgan, Co Dublin -- and three more are now on the cards for Kilkenny, Mayo and Sligo.
The local initiative had expected to build up to 50 members after a year -- but instead it has almost doubled that to 90 in just over a week after its official launch on May 4.
The concept allows commerce and interaction to take place at a local level on a cashless basis with members simply giving each other their time.
Members start their accounts at zero and have a credit and debit limit of 25 hours.
Using the exchange, a house painter can get two hours of accountancy advice from an accountant member and this takes him two hours into the red.
He must then return the two hours to the exchange. This might involve him doing two hours painting work for the teacher, who in turn might repay the exchange by offering two hours grinds, and so on.
"We encourage our new members to get in debt straight away," says Miriam Cotton, the Clonakilty Favour Exchange's outreach coordinator.
"This is because the model doesn't work until a person owes the exchange time -- otherwise everyone stands off and waits to be asked to do something and nothing happens."
Thus, as with cash business, credit oils the wheels of commerce in the time business.
The exchange's most high-profile member is Trinity College economist Constantin Gurdgiev, who offers flyfishing instructions on the Clonakilty exchange. The keen flyfisherman, who is famed for his sobering economic commentary, is unusually upbeat when it comes to the time bank.
"It's a great platform for local business development given the current conditions," he said.
Susan Lynch left telecom sales to set up her own business making luxury soap.
She is among the group organising the set up of the Stillorgan Favour Exchange, which they hope to roll out across Dun Laoghaire Rathdown. "I heard about it on the radio and thought it was a perfect idea for urban as well as rural areas."
She plans to offer her marketing and sales experience.
"And because I love my dog, I'll probably put down dog walking services as well!"
Margaret O'Donoghue, a 34-year-old mother and marketing student, has just set up the Killarney Favours Exchange which already has nine members.
"I thought 'this is amazing -- we have to have one in Killarney'. So I looked into it and set it up."
But if you abuse the system, just like a real bank, the manager will get on your case.
"It's self-regulating because you can't go beyond your 25 hour credit limit," said Ms Cotton.
An important tenet of the exchange, however, is that each member's time is worth an equal amount.
Ms Cotton added: "It gets people out meeting one another and generates lots of community goodwill."