Lifestyle feature: TChi can create endless possibilities

Keith Dodman exchanging Tchi
Keith Dodman exchanging Tchi

MONEY makes the world go round, or so it was said before Transition Chichester got their hands on it.

Rather than try to replace money, Transition Chichester decided to try a radical experiment.

They decided to create an economy that didn’t rely on money at all.

Following the economic crash of 2008, many people were worried about money. Where to keep it? Where to spend it? For some – where to earn it?

To do away with money is radical thinking.

As founder Simon Mouatt explains, the aim was not in fact to create competition with money in any way.

The aim, paradoxically for a currency, was to create a stronger community.

The Tchi currency was born.

Running for the past three years, and pronounced ‘Chai’, the scheme has been more successful than founders hoped. With more than 1,000 notes currently in circulation, the project is now going up to the next stage with 5,000 more notes going out.

Tchi notes look like money – but they aren’t. Members sign up to the scheme and get ten free Tchi notes – each equal to about one hour’s labour.

Tchi-users then ‘pay’ other members of the scheme in Tchi ‘notes’ for a service – such as fixing their computer, or gardening.

Unlike a Time-Bank, people do not have to exchange their skills with the same person.

This means time and notes move round the community in a way that mirrors money.

Tchi members do not trade livelihood skills, but extra skills and time for jobs that otherwise might not get done.

Many local currencies such as the Lewes Pound and Bristol Pound sprang up all over Britain in the wake of the 2008 economic crash.

Local Pounds like the Lewes or Midhurst Pound were designed to be equal to a sterling pound. As they can only be spent within that local town or city, they keep money in the area, spent only at local businesses, and so keep profits local.

The Tchi’s difference to other local currencies is the way it works to trade time and has now attracted a uniquely Chichesterian blend of skills to offer.

Tchi members in the directory can benefit from skills as diverse as book-binding to chair restoration – and Chichester residents have been taking full advantage.

Following the pilot’s success, Transition Chichester plans to make the leap to an extra 5,000 new notes over the next few months, as Tchi is rolled out city-wide.

The next stage will be to give ten new Tchi notes to each of the 600-plus members of Transition Chichester, as well as increase the number of local partnerships with businesses and organisations.

The scheme has already been a success with pioneer business partner Chichester University, with more than 100 music concerts paid for in Tchi and 60 specialist workers giving time back.

As well as giving Tchi to Transition members, the organisers plan to make the scheme more open to the public with an electronic platform at www.facebook.com/groups/tchicurrency.

A new mobile app is also being developed, along with an increase in the number of places where you can use the Tchi – such as local community centres and cafes.

New users can register online at http://tchidirectory.wordpress.com, get ten free Tchis and put up skills they can offer on the directory.

Jobs noticeboard and events are available at www.facebook.com/groups/tchicurrency.

Donna Day-Lafferty

Donna moved to Chichester ten years ago – not born and raised in Chichester, she saw the Tchi as an opportunity.

“It’s this amazing resource to find people who do stuff and do stuff well,” she said.

“The people who volunteer are very specialised. From carpentry to dressmaking, people can also use it for jobs that are a little bit out of their reach – like repairing clothes or redecorating that spare room.

“You find yourself doing things that are a little out of the box and it’s rather fun,”

More than just the useful element of having someone strip and repair her hand-turned oak chairs or do her ironing, Donna also found an unexpected surprise from using the Tchi.

“I’ve made about a dozen new friends through the Tchi.

“Suddenly in Chichester, there’s a community of people I know and I feel more connected with the community I live in.”

She added: “Tchi is more than a transaction of goods and services – it’s about feeling connected with the place you live.”

Chichester University

Chichester University was keen for more community engagement when Donna went to them in 2012.

Since then, Tchis have paid for more than 100 concerts and gigs run by Chichester University and the music department has also paid more than 60 people in Tchi for services as wide-ranging as stage-design, 18th-century dressmanship and carpentry.

“Whenever we’ve wanted support with the Tchi, there’s always been someone willing to have a go,” said a university spokesman.

Music concerts now accepting Tchi can be found at www.chi-ac.uk/about-us/events/listings-2014.

Keith Dodman

An on-off user of the Tchi for more than three years, Keith said: “What I love about the Tchi is that just because you’ve done something for someone, they don’t have to return it, it just stands by itself.”

“I’ve used it for a bit of gardening, taken a couple on a nature ramble pointing out wildlife, plants and insects, book-binding, painting and decorating, shifting heavy loads for elderly people, painting and decorating, bike maintenance, puncture repairs, used it to see Figaro, dog-sitting, car journeys, cushion-mending.”

He said he had done ‘everything and nothing’ with a Tchi, including his popular bike workshop.

Up to ten people attend Keith’s workshops where he demonstrates basic bike skills, fixing punctures and adjusting brakes.

Explaining why he uses the Tchi, Keith said, “I think we’ve got problems with money – people are so caught up in this work situation they haven’t got a lot of time to think about how we could be cooperating and working out things for ourselves.

“The possibilities are endless.”