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Echo interview

When the Economy of Hours project kicked off a couple of years ago we were early enthusiasts; the connecting and sharing work ethic that Echo promotes definitely chimes with our network. Residents have been able to trade skills and resources for Echoes within the community and also outside of it and we've offered resources including desk space, venue hire and market pitches to local charities and businesses.

We caught up with 'connector' Sarah Henderson to find out how it's all going...

Describe Echo in a sentence (or two)?

SH: We're a marketplace without money. People and businesses can trade their skills, services and resources using our currency, Echoes. 1 Echo = 1 hour.

How have you grown the Echo community, what has been particularly challenging?

SH: We started off in Hackney, and the network's grown pretty organically. Initially we met all our new members face to face, and we still retain lots of direct contact with members. This can be labour-intensive but ultimately worthwhile in terms of building a trusted community. We're now East-London wide and growing, so a challenge for us is keeping the real community feel as we get bigger.

Echo feels quite East-centric. Do you think people are more receptive here?

SH: Hackney was the perfect place to start Echo - the businesses and organisations we encountered were receptive to trying something new (trading without money is pretty unusual!) and we were able to tap into lots of sharing and collaboration that's already going on here. Eat Work Art have been super helpful at connecting us into Hackney's creative community since we first started working with them in 2012 - they've been great advocates and users of Echo too.

What inspires you day to day?

SH: Hearing member's stories of how they've used Echo is always inspiring. As well as what they actually give or receive (a new website, a cookery class, accountancy support), we love to hear about the connections they've made, which often lead on to paid work, other collaborations and new friends!

A recent favourite story... We connected sign-painter Archie Proudfoot with new community space Hub 67 in Hackney Wick – Archie painted some amazing internal signage for them, all for Echoes, and they liked his work so much they commissioned him to do the external signage on a paid basis.

How do you innovate to stay interesting and relevant?

SH: As much as we can, we'll call our members up or meet them in person and get their feedback on the service. Last year we noticed that lots of our members were looking for similar kinds of resources, and also spotted that we had some real experts in our midst, so we started our Echo Workshops programme, where we gather a group of Echo members to learn from an expert, usually over drinks and pizza. We've found people love this opportunity to get together face to face too.

What can we expect from you guys next?

SH: We want to carry on doing what we do best - putting people together and helping them trade useful skills and resources. We'll be growing our workshops and events programme to give more opportunities for creative businesses to access valuable professional expertise, plus we're developing a new website to make the Echo trading process even easier.

Join the community - economyofhours.com and check out their upcoming breakfast sessions at the Proud Archivist - breakfast sized nuggets of wisdom on essential topics, for start-ups, small businesses and freelancers.

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