Innovation That Matters

In Italy, hard-up families can pay their water bill with good deeds


Water supplier Padania Acque Gestione is letting customers who have defaulted on payments settle their account with community services.

In these times of economic instability, it is no wonder that the sharing economy has thrived. As individuals and businesses alike are reminded that money is not the only currency of value, there has been a sharp rise in alternative forms of payment – including swapping, donating and exchange of services.

We have already seen work-pay schemes such as free gym classes for those who help out at New York City gyms and the Mir pop-up restaurant in Paris, which let customers pay for their meal by doing the dishes. Now a new project in Northern Italy, called Water Bank, enables hard-up customers to pay their outstanding water bill with social services.

The Water Bank scheme is currently underway in the Cremona province, which has suffered hugely during Italy’s ongoing economic crisis. Customers of Padania Acque Gestione who have defaulted on water payments can now settle their debt by performing community services such as tending public gardens or helping the elderly. The company sought out the alternative scheme as a means of helping struggling families without resorting to charity or aid. The initiative has access to public funding and will evaluate appeals on a case-by-case basis with the assistance of an ethical committee.

Could this scheme be adopted in other parts of the world with high amounts of poverty?



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