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With Bank of Care (BoC), designer Teresa Feldmann is rethinking the whole economy from the perspective of a caregiver. BoC is an alternative accounting system that keeps track of an individual’s unpaid care work. In a three-step loop, it records caregiving, translates it into readable data, and rewards carers. Keeper Assistant, a smart speaker, makes daily recording of such chores as seamless as possible. Members get a detailed overview of their labour in the form of receipts and cumulative statistics. They are creating mounting evidence that this productivity exists.
Bank of Care is an ongoing research and an evolving concept. It is also an umbrella term for discussing these topics. The goal is to introduce care labour into the canon of economics, so that we cannot have an economic discussion without considering the most basic economy. This women-led economy holds the key to habitable, hopeful futures.
Bank of Care alternative accounting system in action. Multilingual user accounts.
1. Bank of Care started with the premise that ‘time is money’. So if time spent on unpaid chores were money too, then I’ve accumulated a hefty sum on my account. Where is the money? No joking, why is it that the more caring responsibilities one has, the more likely one is to struggle economically (or be dependent on someone else’s income)? Who or what has normalised this globally occurring phenomenon that we don’t even question a lot of the time?
2. The truth is women are the unpaid producers of wealth. The non-market production in households that invisibly maintains the rest of the economy is ignored by world governments, by trade, and is excluded from the canon of economics. Rather conveniently however, they all rely on its wealth-producing capacity. The reproduction of workforce through cleaning, cooking, and childcare is essential to the smooth functioning of society and the market.
3. Feminists have long established that housework is work, but it is not any kind of work. It is qualitative, life-sustaining, need-oriented, and creative one. Furthermore, the measure cannot be ‘who does more’ as needs vary tremendously between households. Some carry heavier burdens than others: for example, smaller children require more assistance than older ones. Our individual capacity to give and receive care also changes over time. In all instances, the value of care remains the same.
4. Teresa reached out to women living in various countries and asked them a very simple question: to list their routine chores in the home, from housekeeping to childcare. Their stories were echoing each other despite their culturally different surroundings and social class. Their rich, honest, and sometimes humorous audio recordings are the lifeblood of BoC, and are the original inspiration behind this system.
From Greek: οἶκος (household) + τόπος (place)
The above meditative artwork combines audio recordings collected in 2021 with soothing nature views from an undisclosed place and time. Experience the voicing, listing, reasoning, and reflecting on care labour.
In OIKOTOPIA, it is perfectly normal to talk about caregiving, there’s no sense of engaging in something unskilled or trivial. There’s no financial hardship in shouldering care responsibilities. It is fully evident that by caring one creates and releases abundance into the world. Reciprocally, one can enjoy this collectively created abundance without getting stuck in bureaucracy or politics of deserving-undeserving.
Sci-fi story “Planet Abundance: a feminist economist vision of a post-work society” begins with The Great Exodus where the billionaire class have evacuated planet Earth to colonise Mars, leaving the survivors on Earth to care for a damaged planet. Led by women of colour, transgender women and indigenous folk, the Earthlings adopt an abundance mindset, finding new and old ways to work together in repairing their world.
Additionally, Planet Abundance is a collaborative, multi-vocal platform, a kind of antidote to capitalist scarcity thinking. Each chapter is a design exercise for the reader: to imagine their versions, systems, societies, fictional histories if billionaire overlords were to disappear. It is vital that we find ways to retain the hope and optimism that a different world is possible.