Economy of Hours (Echo)
Echo, or Economy of Hours, is billed as a marketplace without money. The trading network helps local communities build relationships between individuals, businesses, and other organisations by facilitating the exchange of skills and supports. The goal is to help marginalised groups in London to build their skills and improve their well-being, which in turn helps to strengthen communities.
Echo is a community interest company that is building a nationwide network of local time banks, where individuals and organisations can exchange resources, services and other supports through non-monetary transactions. The initiative was born in East London and there are plans to expand the project throughout the United Kingdom. Access to supports through Echo is currently free. In the longer term, member individuals, businesses and organisations will be asked to pay an administration or membership fee. All profits form membership subscriptions would be added to time banks to maximise benefits.
In East London, the initiative is funded by Shoreditch Trust. The Trust's mandate is to help individuals obtain skills, knowledge and opportunities with the goal of reducing socio-economic disadvantage in and around Hackney. The initiative is also delivered in cooperation with the London Legacy Development Corporation, which is the planning authority for the area in and around Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Echo provides businesses based in and around Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park with the unique opportunity to provide and access free services using the time bank marketplace.
How Echo Works
Members of Echo buy and sell their skills, services, and resources using an unofficial currency named Echoes. The exchange rate is one hour per Echo. Echo is open to local individuals and organisations, including businesses, councils, charities and leisure centres. The initiative is designed to promote a community-wide economy of hours. Benefits to individuals, businesses, charities and other organisations include lower operating costs, increased organisational capacity, increased awareness and profile, and attracting new clients and champions. It also allows members to make the most of assets and resources, including ones that are underutilised in exchange for services or supports that are needed without spending money. Echo also provides a positive social impact to the local community.
Echo works with individuals and organisations to maximise resources to help provide skills and services to members. For businesses, Echo helps with accessing free professional services. These services might include financial planning or developing strategic plans such as marketing strategies and business plans. The initiative also assists with increasing the capacity of charities, sole traders and start-ups by facilitating access to a range of free supports, such as administration personnel, desk space, and other services. For individuals, Echo helps make connections with community services such as childcare as well as training opportunities and free recreation. It also provides services to larger firms, including advice on corporate social responsibility (CSR), recruitment, and more.
How to Join Echo
The first step to participating in the time bank is to sign up with Echo, which can be completed online. Once registered, Echo works with members to determine their individual needs. Echo also works with members to identify what resources and services they can share with other members. Once registered, members complete an online profile. They are then able to add listings of what they need as well as what they can offer to other members. Once a profile is set up and listings posted, members can trade with one another with trades made in Echoes rather than money. Members who receive a service through Echo are required to make online payments to the donor member using Echoes. All payments are made through the Echo website.