©flickr / Jens-Olaf Walter

Earthday Money

Receiving money for voluntary involvement? "r" is a currency in Tokyo that successfully brings together volunteers, social projects and businesses.

Volunteering is more fun with Earthday Money. But how do money and volunteer work fit together? Well, “r”, as the currency is called, is not real money. In Shibuya, a district in central Tokyo, volunteers receive 150 “r” for each hour worked in one of over 30 participating projects, whether that be beautifying the neighbourhood with flowerbeds, reading to retirement home residents, or dusting a museum. As compensation, volunteers receive small dockets with QR-Codes on them which are scanned in order for the “r” to be added to their account. In participating shops, “r” can be used to get an ice cream, get a shirt cleaned, or to buy other things. The salesperson merely needs to look at a cellphone for confirmation that the buyer has sent the “r” to the shop.

Social projects, volunteers, and shops – all profit from “r”. A flexible reward motivates people to volunteer, social projects get more supporters, and shops can “live out” their CSR directly with their customers and profit from an attractive neighbourhood. “Research shows that most people shy away from volunteering because they don't want a long-term commitment” says Ikuma Saga, the founder of “r”. “With the Earthday Money concept, they stay flexible.” Meanwhile, over 5000 people have registered at earthdaymoney.org.

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