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Alt News
You Can’t Buy Happiness, But You Can Barter For It
July 19, 2013
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Most banks are all about making money. This one's about making people happy.

It's called the The Bank of Happiness. Founded in Estonia by psychologist Airi Kivi, the bank's business is simple: it helps people help one another -- and now that it's doing so outside of Estonia's borders, NPR recently shared the story of how it's connecting do-gooders around the world.

Here's how it works: Maybe you'd like to tutor someone in a second language, or maybe you have the expertise to offer legal advice -- or teach a stranger the guitar or the piano or the unicycle.

Anything (within the realm of decency) goes.

If so, you can post an ad -- or "Offer" -- for your services. Don't go into things expecting payment beyond a sincere thank you; users of the bank give their services for free. But everyone who benefits from a kindness is encouraged to pay it forward and post an ad of their own.

You can advertise for things you want, too -- though good etiquette suggests you should wait until you've "deposited a good deed" in the bank, so to speak. Think of it all as a barter-based Craigslist, one that trades exclusively in good deeds.

And according to founder Kivi, this warm-and-fuzzy economic system is working. The bank boasts a wealth of kindness -- with more people posting "Offers" than there are seeking them.

As she writes on the bank's website, "one can get the impression that there should not be a single person in Estonia who has a problem but no one to share it with."

But that's the thing. So far, this online Utopia is almost entirely Estonian. With a membership of just a little more than 2,000, 1949 "bankers" hail from the Eastern European country.

Still, the Bank does business in several languages, English and French included, and if you visit the Bank of Happiness' website, you'll see bankers beginning to dot the globe -- flung across borders and oceans -- and yet connected by the willingness to share knowledge and kindness.

"We call it a bank because we want to bring forth a new set of values. At the moment we are glued to other people only through money. But that's not how we evolved as a society," the bank's founder told the London Times in 2009. "We used to work as a team."

With the community now fully online and active, could Canadians begin banking in happiness? Looking at the website, there aren't any Canadian members yet. You could be the first.

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