A new bank has been launched in Estonia and even in the country's ultra-modern banking landscape it really is something quite new. Unlike other banks, the
Bank of Happiness (Õnnepank) is an online bank without any over-the-counter operations. A single click is all it takes to become one of its customers. A result of the crisis, it is founded on the principle of solidarity with others and that "good deeds" are forms of value that can be exchanged. The purpose of the Bank is to promote non-monetary values. Registered users describe what they are prepared to do for other to help them. There is a long list of "good deeds" available: babysitting, walking the dog, repairing taps, cleaning windows, sewing, help drafting a CV etc. Customers are identified by their ID card and those who do not have access to the Internet can call on a "local Chief of Happiness" for help. The initiative is based on mutual trust and goodwill. The Bank 's services are free-of-charge. It has its own currency, "the Star of Gratitude" and one good deed is worth one Star. Gratitude and recognition are the two sides of the coin for this form of "money", the value of which simply cannot be estimated.
Here once again, Estonia shows that acting as a laboratory for social experiment is what it likes to do best: It is worth noting that Estonia is a country where the crisis of the Social Bond may be less acute than in most large metropolitan areas or countries considered to be rich. It should therefore come as no surprise that it proves to easier to mobilize and tap into a massive source of local productivity based on principles of solidarity or social economy. The first step undoubtedly has to be re-establishing proximity as a value which is just as important in defining social structures as globalization has been in undoing them. An individual, just like the society to which he/she belongs, has to stand on his/her own two feet, with one foot in the global sphere and the other with a firm local foothold. Mobility is something that is only going to strengthen this need for a bi-valent approach. Amazingly, it seems that Estonia may already have taken thing to the next level. At this level, the valuation of proximity gives rise to the development of a genuine micro-economy. This micro-economy founded on local eco-systems is the only system able to mobilize the multiple sources of energy yet to be tapped and to have access to the full richness and diversity of resources available to us in our immediate proximity. A realization that brings us right to the heart of the matter of the "sustainable society".
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