Bartering groups – using favours instead money – are all the rage in Cork. Chris Dunne finds out about one being launched today
IT ALL began with a random conversation among friends at a dinner party about the state of the nation.
It led to the setting up of Clonakilty Favour Exchange — a new style of bartering system — which will be launched in the town on Friday by respected economist Constantin Gurdgiev.
Miriam Cotton of Clonakilty takes up the story: “Myself, and my husband, Bev, were having dinner with our neighbours, Olive and Ger, and naturally the chat got around to the recession and how we could get things done and difficulty in finding labour at a keen price.”
As the old saying goes, two heads are better than one, and in this case, four heads proved to be even more beneficial.
During a brain-storming session, the group of four became the instigators of one of the most successful moneyless exchange groups in the country, now boasting 60 members.
“The number of people signed up to the group is phenomenal for such a small town,” says Miriam.
She explains how LETS — Local Exchange Trading Schemes — work: “These moneyless exchange schemes of goods and services have been around for about 30 years and are based on the ancient system of barter — a commodities exchange system.
“The scheme has its own currency known as ‘the favour’.
“One favour is the equivalent of 15 minutes’ time. Direct exchanging between individuals is not necessary. Once you are a member of the scheme any favours you give — for example two hours of guitar lessons, house decorating, or website designing — can be redeemed from any other member for any other skill or time — to babysit for example — that is on offer.
“Since it started two months ago, the Clonakilty Favour Exchange (CFE) has attracted huge support and interest locally and nationally. Now that it is up-and-running, people all over the country are hoping to start up similar schemes in their own localities that promote exchanging skills and labour on a goodwill basis.”
Jenny Sleeman, aged 82, is one of the Clonakilty group’s members. As part of one favour, a local woman couldn’t face the prospect of killing her hens — and Jenny duly obliged.
“Jenny is a great advocate for the group,” says Miriam. “She has skills that go back decades that she learned as a young girl and that many people don’t have today.”
Miriam says the enjoyment and enthusiasm generated in the town because of the scheme is a joy to behold.
“It is fantastic. The balance of your account is unimportant. Members start out with a credit limit of 100 favours — or 25 hours — and are actively encouraged to go into ‘debt’ immediately.
“Asking for favours is the engine of the scheme, because it is the best way of getting things done for everyone.”
CFE has approximately 170 various skills on offer to its members. Miriam says: “They include help with pets, music lessons, gardening, energy efficiency, tax advice, marketing, and a variety of therapies to transport, plumbing, and giving people a lift to appointments, shopping trips or to the train station.”
At its heart, Clonakilty Favour Exchange is about altruism — the plaster that sticks society and communities together.
The Clonakilty Exchange Group will be formally launched at 3pm today by Constantin Gurdgiev in O’Donovan’s Hotel in the town. Also present will be internet guru Bill Liao, who has joined the scheme as a ‘Giving Officer.’ See www.clonfavour.com
Read an article on a Midleton bartering group in Friday’s Cork Evening Echo