“Talente” Currencies in Vorarlberg, Austria
Founded in 1996 as a timebank for the whole of the westernmost austrian province/state of Vorarlberg, the Talente System (www.talentiert.at) is now one of the most successful and innovative grass-root currency systems in operation.
(Update 2014: The efforts are now carried forward by the social enterprise Allmenda: http://allmenda.com)
Always rooted in practice rather then theory, all developments had been orientated on the needs of the predominantly rural population. It took its original inspiration from the LETS systems of the 1980s and 90s but extended their concepts with the aim of serving a whole state and not just one local community and strongly incorporating businesses and other stakeholders.
The Talents are first of all a mutual credit time currency (1hour = 100 Tt), valid in the whole province but facilitated by the team of the Talente Association in 9 local regions. The association has has one central account for it´s own booking. The credit limits are set at 3.000-5.000Tt for individuals and 5.000-7000Tt for organizations/businesses.
In addition to the online accounts, those member with a positive balance can withdraw their time-credits as paper vouchers at several outlets-partners. These bills can be used to extend exchanges to people who are not (yet) member of the Talente system and/or can be re-deposited into any member-account.
Euro-backed Regional Currency:
In addition to the time-credits, the association launched a Euro-backed “Regiogeld” (regional money) currency in 2008, modeled on the successful German Chiemgauer currency. This currency is denominated in Tt and Euro, the latter making it acceptable by businesses for its (more) easy accounting. The bills can be purchased for Euros but only businesses can redeem back to Euros. Individuals can however redeem them for time-credits, which are booked from the association´s account. With the influx of Euro, the Talente associations purchases regional products that are sold back for time-credits, thus extending and diversifying the flows and production circuits.
For the double denomination/exchange rate between Euro and time, one hour was set at the purchasing power of 100 Austrian Schilling, which was equivalent to 7,25 € when the Euro first replaced the Schilling in 2001. In 2011 the same hour/purchasing power is at 8,75 € (see picture of the bill below) and this rate is going to change with the rate of inflation of the Euro (app. 10 € in 2012).
In this way the stable character of the time-credits is protected and emphasized.
Targeted local currencies:
Already six month after the introduction of the €-backed regional currencies a local version of implemented in parallel for the specific purpose of rescuing the village grocery store in the little community of Langenegg.
Households are offered discounted annual subscriptions of this currency, which is redeemable for all products sold at the store. In addition to this cash-advance and lowered risk for the shop, local producers accept the currency, offering an extra incentive to buy local, for individuals and the store-management.
This currency can be redeemed to Euro by commercial entities minus a percantage “exit-fee”*, which only applies up to the first 7500€. Hence those, like the shop, that accumulate large amounts, can redeem their extra without loss which gives them further security for their financial planning.
A revolution in its own standing had been the cooperation of the local council of Langenegg, which accepts this complementary currency for taxes and fees, and spends it back into circulation in local subsides.
The Euro-denominated currencies circulate in form of paper bills and electronically. These accounts are hosted by the local branch of a commercial credit-union.
Being hugely successful, the model of targeted €-backed local currencies has since been employed in three more instances within the province. The objective ranging from local production to environmental conservation.
In 2011, the turnover in time-credits was app. 30.000 hours.
Research showed that roughly a third of all facilitated exchanges were not even recorded in the system.
All €-backed currencies combined had a turnover of 1,2 million €.
(of which the above example of Langenegg had 300.000 €)
Calculating the turnover of time-credits at the set Euro-rate (1h=8,75 €) brings the total of complementary currency used in Vorlarlberg to app. 1.5 Mio € pre year.
The latest ambitions and experiments will be in province-wide time-saving systems (roughly modeled on the japanese Furrai-Kippu).
Since the final responsibility for social security in Austria lies with local councils (only in case of there default, the province is called upon), and mid- and longterm guarantees in Euro are impossible these days, this seems to be a natural next step to take.
However, the legal frameworks today prevent easy adoptions of these ideas.
But just across the Swiss border, where politics and current law is less avert, the city of St. Gallen is committed to launch a pilot-system in the first half of 2012 (see news report, German only).
* the exit fee varies between the different Euro-backed currencies (regional and local), and also differentias between local producers, who pay only 3%, and other businesses, who pay 7%.