Initiatives aimed at encouraging social and economic exchange at the local level (such as the Tauschkreis Vorarlberg and the Kempodium in Kempten) or at the regional level by trying to fill the gap of the vanishing traditional infrastructures can stop these gaps at least in part.
At a time when the state is stepping back and social structures are weakening, the team of CIPRA experts believes that the greatest challenge to governance capacity in Alpine regions is continually restoring cohesion among residents, helping them to organise themselves, and motivating them to take a greater part in decisions, particularly with regard to the protection of the countryside and the environment, the services provided to the population, and access to the housing and labour markets.
Village communities in rural areas are currently characterised by fundamental change:
Participation in village life is becoming a conscious voluntary decision. In particular the small municipalities, or individual localities within larger municipalities, are hereby faced with the dilemma of being in competition with other localities and municipalities on the one hand, and on the other hand requiring cross-border cooperation to maintain the provision of a high quality and professional range of services.
- From farming village to residential and recreational neighbourhoods with a high proportion of outgoing commuters
- From a community with limited mobility and strong local bonds to high mobility with many options
Through the Vorarlberg talent exchange – a neighbourhood assistance association - services and goods are traded without using money (Source: THOMAS ENDER, TALENTETAUSCHKREIS VORARLBERG).
Vorarlberg Talent Exchange (Austria)
Finalist of CIPRA's Future in the Alps competition, 2005
The Vorarlberg talent exchange is an association for organised neighbourhood assistance in which services and goods are traded without printed currency and members are credited in "talents" (the name given to the complementary secondary currency). The non-profit association aims to harness the special skills of people who do not have a permanent employment contract (young mothers, the unemployed, the disabled and senior citizens) and boost their self-esteem. The initiative creates social ties and helps the community to strengthen its cohesion. The talent system works on the same principle as the bonus air miles of airline companies, but on the basis of a social contract and an environmentally friendly approach.
Using Talents to Buy Furniture
The system works as follows: a single mother joins the neighbourhood assistance and saves up lots of talents. She can then use them to order solid-wood furniture for her children from her carpenter, buy organic products from the farmer or book seminars at the education centre.
The association has been able to win over many communities, welfare services and companies to the talent system. Since its founding the neighbourhood scheme has exchanged 11 million talents or 110,000 hours of work among some 1,400 members. Some families already earn around 10% of their household budget using talents. 12% of the 560 member accounts are held by businesses and social & welfare services. The talent economy has also benefited companies by allowing them to find temporary staff quickly and easily in a very personal environment. The model for this people-friendly and environmentally compatible economy has now spread to seven regions. The perfect excuse for celebrating the 10th anniversary in a big way!