‘It’s about people, not projects’

At Ting, people share money and expertise to help others make a fresh start. In line with the concept of a basic income, the platform wants to create space for change and unleash people’s creative potential.

Ting is all about redis­tri­bu­tion: people who can afford to do so give money to people who have need of it right now. But Ting is also all about trust: what happens if you give stran­gers money without knowing what they’ve done in the past? Won’t they just frit­ter away the cash?

Three years after the project was laun­ched, the foun­ders of this redis­tri­bu­tion plat­form can answer this with an unequi­vo­cal ‘no’. ‘Of course, we’ve had a few bad expe­ri­en­ces,’ says co-foun­der Ondine Riesen, but most members are honest and altru­i­stic, she explains. They don’t just request the maxi­mum amount. Instead, they calcu­late precis­ely how much money they really need, or they turn down the rema­in­der of the amount they’ve alre­ady been promi­sed because they’ve obtai­ned the money from other sources. Ondine Riesen: ‘Ting is the proof that people don’t exploit our system if they’re part of the community.’

Ting works in line with the soli­da­rity prin­ci­ple: all its members pay into a shared bank account each month. The mini­mum amount varies depen­ding on the member­ship and there’s no upper limit. If a person wants finan­cial support for a speci­fic project, they can draw money from the shared account for a parti­cu­lar period of time, while also enjoy­ing access to the community’s expertise.

The maxi­mum amount a person can receive is a monthly stipend of 2,500 Swiss francs for six months. Then there are people dubbed ‘enablers’: members who pay into the commu­nity account without expec­ting anything in return. ‘In other words, Ting builds a bridge between people who want to try some­thing new but don’t have the money and people who have enough money and want to support other people’s projects,’ explains Ondine.

Making time

The Grund­ein­kom­men (lite­rally, ‘basic income’) asso­cia­tion is behind the Ting project. After the vote for a univer­sal basic income in 2016 came to naught, the asso­cia­tion had to decide what to do next, says Silvan Groher, project mana­ger at Ting. This time, it didn’t turn its gaze to the poli­ti­cal sphere, but to civil society. The idea behind Ting is ulti­m­ately the same: the belief that people can unleash their crea­tive poten­tial if they’re less worried about paying for life’s essen­ti­als. ‘We give people the chance to think about what other kinds of things they’d like to do with their life,’ says Silvan. Thanks to finan­cial support from a private indi­vi­dual, the asso­cia­tion was able to work with the think-and-do tank Dezen­trum to deve­lop the project concept and the asso­cia­ted online plat­form. ‘And then, when we were ready to go, coro­na­vi­rus hit,’ recalls Ondine Riesen. Without delay, they used the soft­ware as part of a colla­bo­ra­tion with the wema­keit crowd­fun­ding plat­form to coll­ect money for various groups, inclu­ding crea­ti­ves who were left without an income during lock­down and recei­ved no support from the state.

All told, 280,000 Swiss francs were distri­bu­ted swiftly and with zero bureau­cracy. ‘We recei­ved such touch­ing feed­back,’ explains the co-foun­der. Some reci­pi­ents also repaid the money down the line. ‘That confirmed to us that Ting was heading in the right direction.’

‘Money is a means to an end, but it is the people who carry out a project.’

Silvan Groher, Co-Foun­der Ting

The diverse community

Ting has been online since June 2020. At present, its commu­nity compri­ses more than 430 members, from archi­tects to doctors and Qi Gong trai­ners. Ting gives people lots of free­dom, whether that’s a single mother who needs a tempo­rary income to complete her course or those who are braving the step towards self-employ­ment or daring to launch a sustaina­bi­lity project. 

There are a few strings atta­ched: if you want money for a project, you need to make an appli­ca­tion. This is reviewed by at least five members, plus exter­nal audi­tors, in line with four crite­ria. A project can also be turned down if it seems half-baked. On the website, members can access an online tool for formu­la­ting goals, inclu­ding working out how much money and time they need – the better their plans, the better their pros­pects of success.

The sense of belon­ging to a group 

But Ting is about much more than just money: it’s also about sharing know­ledge. The plat­form offers its members all kinds of ways to network with each other. Plus, the core team orga­ni­ses regu­lar events where the commu­nity can meet in person and share their expe­ri­en­ces. The feeling of being part of a commu­nity is just as important to members as the money, Silvan Groher belie­ves: ‘The money is a means to an end, but the people are what moti­va­tes you to see a project through.’ This commu­nity spirit may be why enablers pay into an account without ever getting an income from it – like the major donor who’s been giving Ting 20,000 Swiss francs a month since the start of the year because they believe in the ‘power of togetherness’. 

‘Ting is proof that people don’t take advan­tage of a system when they are part of the community.’

Ondine Riesen, Co-Foun­der Ting

A new approach to funding

Ting’s core team curr­ently consists of five people, who coll­ect and distri­bute member­ship contri­bu­ti­ons, manage the plat­form, orga­nise events and work­shops and look after fund­rai­sing. This latter acti­vity is a time-consum­ing, energy-sapping endea­vour at present. After three years, Ting’s initial funding from the Migros Pioneer Fund has come to an end. While the number of members is incre­asing, there aren’t nearly enough of them to make the project self-suffi­ci­ent. As they’re looking for new funding part­ners, the team is noti­cing that Ting slips through the cracks. Grant giving foun­da­ti­ons award their funding based on certain crite­ria, but ‘so far, redis­tri­bu­tion hasn’t exis­ted as a criter­ion,’ says Ondine Riesen. In addi­tion, Ting doesn’t unila­te­rally tie its money to a parti­cu­lar purpose: ‘We support the people behind a project, not a project itself.’ In other words, Ting doesn’t moni­tor what someone ulti­m­ately spends the money on. ‘We trust that indi­vi­du­als have the best sense of what they need the most,’ belie­ves Silvan Groher. Its foun­ders also see Ting as the epitome of a new approach to funding or a future social system, one with a lean approach to bureau­cracy and that focu­ses on indi­vi­du­als’ needs through trust, not control. 

First off, Ting needs to find new sources of funding. Other­wise, its project mana­gers might be in the same boat as some of their members: with a great idea but no money to make it a reality. 


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