The case of The Time Bank of Agia Varvara
And The Ovolos currency based in the cities of Patras and Thessalonike
Rebublished from Ellen Kalisperati Sociologist
The Time Bank organises educational workshops, where people from Athens and other Greek cities participate, in order to learn more about Time Banking and hastrained many people who have participated in the establishment of other Time Banksor other parallel currency schemes. Since autumn 2011 the Time Bank of the European Network of Women tries to create local nodes in Greater Athens area, to beable to manage the new members who applied for participation. However, in December 2011, the really active members were around 45 with many membership applications pending. I have been a registered member with the Time Bank of the European Network of Women since its very beginning in autumn2005.
But what about the Time Bank of Agia Varvara?
Similar in structure, the Time Bank of Agia Varvara has been established in2011 by the Municipality of Agia Varvara in the Greater Athens area. The Time Bank has not many members (30 to 40) and transactions are not many either. Of course, this is normal for a scheme which has been established quite recently in comparison to other schemes. The peculiarity of this Time Bank is that its management is done by themunicipality itself and that this initiative has been more or less successful, in terms of getting the entire scheme running. The attempt by the Municipality of Lamia, incentral Greece, to establish a Time Bank
has not been successful so far, while theattempt of the Municipality of Pylaia in the Greater Thessalonike area to create aTime Bank online platform for the city habitants to be able to use it, is still at itsorganisation stage.
The Ovolos currency based in the cities of Patras and Thessalonike
The Ovolos project started its organising in January 2009 and it is based inPatras city (West-South coast of the country) but also run in Thessaloniki (secondmajor city in the North of Greece), as well. Its members were around 4800 in July2010, but not all of them are really active, although active members are at least double number than the one initially announced on Complementary Currencies database
.Each member has an equal say on the management of the scheme. To achieve this equality in practical terms and particularly in decision-making procedures, the main coordinators have delayed launching the currency in order to safeguard the checks-and-balances feature of the scheme by using Greek legislation. Therefore, there has been created a non-profit organisation (Σωµατείο) based in Patras city and named “Ovolos Research and Documentation Center for Social Currency” which has the supervision of the scheme and provides the members with documentation and perform research activities. The members of the organisation have by law equal rights and obligations and the organisation is the “umbrella organisation” for the entire scheme.In 2011 the scheme asked their members to register with the non-profit organisation so there remained about 2100 members in the scheme. Ovolos currency covers the entire country and it is used by several people who do not live or work in Patras and Thessaloniki, but they prefer to transact with parallel currency in their local communities. This has created a peculiar situation, where locality of transactions is not linked necessarily to the “base cities”. The Ovolos organisers see this as an advantage, which will make Ovolos an online technology platform available to all people living in the country, enabling them to experiment using parallel currency while transacting locally no matter where they live. Therefore, the scheme members can use the Ovolos currency (which is virtual, e.g. on the main computer system and on each member’s digital smart card) instead of 86euro currency for their transactions with members. To avoid abuses of the system by companies, they have not permitted double pricing, i.e. the items or services sold are priced and paid in Ovolos only. The basic idea behind Ovolos is that the classical(state) currencies, especially after the interruption of equivalence with gold in 1971,create sur-values that are out of control by the economy and non-responding to real economy, e.g. real production. Contrary to that, the social currency will circulate and be consumed as it is produced.
A significant feature of the currency is the designation of it: the members of Ovolos call it “Social Currency”. They wanted, first to show the social orientation of the entire project and second to avoid giving any false impressions of localist orsecessionist ideas (if they called it “local currency”) or of competing with eurocurrency (e.g if they named it “Community Currency” it might be confused with the European Community currency). The title “social” is more than a word, because the plan includes features of Local Exchange Trading Systems but also of Time Banks. The local and not regional character is important not only because of the model of the parallel currency they use, but also because the Ovolos founders and users believe that the currency will be easier managed and controlled by its members if it remain son a local basis. The other “social” feature of Ovolos is that the scheme members use extensively the social networking internet applications to communicate, exchange ideas, discuss and notify each other about current news or about gatherings, etc. The use of Facebook as well as the use of blogs, email lists, etc is also found in many other initiatives – but it is amazing how the establishment of a parallel currency has been based on internet communication applications for publicising the project but also for permitting the members (and to some extent any person interested) to have direct information and participation in discussions and decisions about the project. What is also very interesting about Ovolos is that it was started by a group of entrepreneurs, contrary to most parallel currency schemes in other countries, which have a hard time to attract even small neighborhood businesses. The economic and financial crisis of October 2008 and its consequences, which have been severe for Patras city, have induced the entrepreneurs to search for money liquidity. At the same time, as household spending has decreased, individuals were very positive to the idea, if this was going to offer them the opportunity to buy basic goods without need in geuro currency for this. In autumn 2010, Ovolos Association has provided me with data concerning the location of the official Association members in autumn 2010, who were only 332at that time located in Greece only. I did not count the members located in countries other than Greece. Below one can see the members of the Ovolos Association as of autumn 2010. I have no detailed data about the dispersion of members within greater Athens and Thessaloniki area. Moreover, I have not had data concerning the dispersion of all Ovolos members at that time throughout Greece. The curious thing in this mapping result is that there are no members in the islands apart from Crete and Dodecanese. In Crete, there are no members in Chania city, which is the second major city of the island. There are no members in the central part of mainland Greece neither in the northern prefectures. However, given that I have no data on all members of the currency at that time (because it was allowed to be a member of Ovolos currency without being a member of the Ovolos Association) I cannot reach any safe conclusions. Particularly about areas where Ovolos Association has one or very few members only, one could ask the question whether there are any other members for the official member to transact with or this membership has ended up to be practically non-active. The percentage of members in each prefecture is shown below. The geographical points which have no percentage are those that belong to the same prefecture.
This article is a part of a PhD Dissertation named Exchange networks and parallel currencies: Theoretical approaches and the case of Greece. Edited by Irene Sotiropoulou
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