In a couple there are topics that sometimes you need to not speak about, topics where existing disagreements can create a stormy atmosphere, trigger passions. There is the classic subject of the parents-in-law, the ex, the subjects about the time spent at work, the time spent a passion, but not for us. On the other hand do not come to speak about the Accorderie, you will be in the embarrassment. Although … the travel, the weather, the discoveries also allowed to give our visions, but it remains an important subject, since Audrey worked there 3 years, we met there, then when she left I had her job for 2 years. Fortunately the effect of being a young couple was present when talking about the subject then!
What is an Accorderie ?
An Accorderie is part of what is called a Local Exchange System (LETS). Being more specific, it is a time bank, a network of exchange of services; that is to say that its members will register to create a network together in order to be able to exchange services with a currency: the time.
Its operation is different from barter because you have to see that it works in a triangular way. Take the example that you offer 2 hours of gardening to your neighbor. This one does not have to give you back a service in exchange, he must however pay you 2 hours of his account of time. Then with this 2 hours, you can either use them to take a German course, or take 1h of cooking with another person and 1h of German with another. An account in the time bank is like money you spent as you want.
Unlike national currencies, however, the time bank allows the value of services not to be based on any abstract value society gives to knowledge, but on the human time invested by the person who serves you. If you help someone for one hour to set up a table, it is worth the same as an hour of legal advice or an hour to accompany you in an administrative process.
What is the difference between an Accorderie and a time bank ?
An Accorderie will have two major differences that will differentiate it from a conventional LET or time bank; the first is that the Accorderie has a social mission of: fight against poverty and against social exclusion. In order to carry out this mission, its second difference is that it has employees. In fact, a LET is mostly a group of volunteers and autonomous willing to create this kind of entity, whether it is a desire to operate outside the capitalism system or want to recreate a local network. They will not have any third party to manage them, but will do it through them, in their community.
According to the studies, a LET will however rarely be able to exceed fifty people, otherwise it implodes, its goal being to recreate a network, a too large number of members makes that they will not know each other and will not exchange. An Accorderie can go beyond this barrier through the role of the employees who will carry out the mission and who will be the cement to hold it.
A bit of history
In order to better understand the mission of the Accorderie, it is important to know the reason for its creation. In the early 2000s, downtown Quebec City was not the gentrified neighborhood we now know. Saint-Roch is historically a working-class district and it was, is, the place where there are many organizations of assistance to the person. The Saint-Roch Foundation organized a group of purchases, meanning that a group of people get together to buy whole quantities and separate it individually to save money, however, a loss of funding prevented it to continue. At the same time, the Caisse Solidaire Desjardins, a member of the caisses populaires (credit union), but still with a social fund, unlike the movement, was a micro-credit supporter, but was forced to stop. However, the two organizations wanted to continue to offer their respective services, in consultation with each other from where was born the idea of creating an organization that would compensate.
While we were still at the beggining of the organism, the idea of the SEL germinated little by little; and thinked it could be use as a cement to create a link between people. The Accorderie was born. When one explains its principle, it has been defined as the desire to recreate a village on a small scale, to build a network of knowledge in order to help one another. It is important to understand that it is not by its size that one can qualify the smooth functioning of a Accorderie, but by the link weave between its members.
Figth against poverty and social exclusion
When I worked there, the Quebec Accorderie had 26% of people born outside Quebec, unlike the 12% of city statistics. There are many ways to be poor, as monetary wealth does not necessarily indicate human wealth, but monetary poverty is not necessarily a lack of knowledge. The mission of the Accorderie is a puzzle for anyone who wants to think or categorize it. Is it a community organization or a group of activists? Both. Is it an organization for poor people? No and yes. Is it a place to dream about post-capitalism? Yes and no.
Rich or poor, the Accorderie has a mission of social mixity, within it, the doctor or the unemployed are equal before the time we have. People come because they feel lonely or like the principle they defend, they come because we need to get out of the monetary system or simply because we do not want to be in the system .
The role of the employee is to make this diversity possible and to support a more fragile population to participate equally in this system. It is not because one has no money or work that one does not have talent, however it can be the cause of a lack of self confidence and one must then relearn to do the first step.
Applying for babysitting services can be more complicated than asking for text correction if you do not know the person, which is why you need to have a network, a community that knows and can trust each other. Having group and collective activities are just as important for the community as for the richness of the individual exchanges. In an Accorderie, there is often a need to organize activities open to all so that new and old people can know each other and advise each other. This is one of the pillars of its operation so that the cement can work.
While the purchasing group and the micro-credit at the base of its creation in 2002 had been thought to reinforce by the implementation of the LET, it is now the LET who finds himself reinforced by the purchasing group and the chemistry createad between its members. In 2014 the purchasing group of the Quebec Accorderie ends because of a lack of funds and a reduction of staff. A year later, it’s a new group of purchases that was born out of the work of the members independently. Their collaborative work allowed him to survive, but also to create new links and adherence to the organization by members who were involved.
His strength as her weakness, but it grows up.
Born in 2002, the Quebec Accorderie was the first and has been growing since. Until 2006 it had to take care of its operation and help others to create, so that year a network was created with the mission to support and supervise the Accorderies to make it a real bigger network. Today there are now 15 Accorderies in Quebec with a new born few weeks ago. Since 2012, its model has exported overseas and there are now more than 20 Accorderies in France, but there is also one in Belgium and Morocco.
The model exports and deserves it, but the Accorderie has the weakness of being an organization that requires money to operate, which makes its strength on the SEL also makes it weak, the Accorderie can not to exist by itself. So yes, we innovate and its members appropriate it, we can for example do tasks within the organization and get paid in hours, which allows to exchange services with others, this is not not volunteering. But up to where can do that if the mission of the organization is to include, can we go in this logic?
The Accorderie is an organization that welcomes and helps everyone through the mutual aid of everyone and that the organism that gives fund does not see a good eye, since the result is not quantifiable by statistics made by an office employee. The fact of not being a community organization helping a specific disadvantaged population, prevents it from a lot of funding, but it is precisely this openness that allows to fulfill its mission.
How to overcome this problem? In Quebec, 5 of them, including that of Quebec City, have turned into a cooperative. In order to find another means of financing or to strengthen the democratic aspect, this has not yet been proven, but the process of subsistence is felt, Members want to be present and play a role. How could a citizen organization exist if its mission is to bring about something that politics is about to extinguish?
Social ou autonomous ?
I tend to say that the Accorderie is a bit like a Spanish hostel (french idiom), that is to say, you will find what you bring in. Between activism and social work if you seek it you will surely find it, but do especially the raison d’être of the Accorderie, it is only yours, it is that we understood in our discussions in a relationship with 🙂
Also published on Medium.