Susanna Fassbind from Zug is the creator of neighbourhood help organisation using time credits, and set up the Swiss umbrella organization, Fondation Kiss, in 2019 - tests with Blockchain will start soon. She is the president of Kiss Canton Zug and her book “Time for you - Time for me” was published in 2017.
She has set herself the ambitious goal of revolutionising retirement provision across Switzerland using time credits. But when talking to the editorial team, Susanna Fassbind – brightly-coloured sweater, friendly blue eyes – was more restrained: Yes, she was often referred to as the “mother” of the Kiss concept (see box). But the neighbourhood aid model was intended as a complement to the existing old-age provision.
Pension schemes are coming under increasing pressure. How can the Kiss concept remedy this?
By providing neighbourhood help, the members of the cooperative build up a fourth pillar with time credits, in addition to the three existing pillars of old-age provision. You can draw on the invested time if you need help yourself. The advantage: our pillar is independent of stock exchange business, pensions and personal assets. It doesn’t lose its value, because an hour is always worth an hour. In this way, older people should be able to stay at home as long as possible. 40 percent of the people who are currently in old people's home could also be looked after at home.
You set up the Fondation Kiss in August. What is the purpose of the foundation?
We created the Fondation Kiss to provide an umbrella organisation to support the existing Kiss cooperatives. The cooperatives should be networked, and be able to benefit from the common infrastructure and experience.
You co-founded the Kiss Switzerland association in 2011. Why is a foundation now needed?
The Kiss Switzerland Association is currently in liquidation, while the Fondation Kiss focuses more on Switzerland-wide foundations that facilitate the work of the cooperatives. A foundation has a greater recognition, because it is non-profit and has no profit-making purpose. Through the foundation, we would also like to be taken more seriously by the federal government in Berne and by national organisations. We are already receiving a lot of encouragement, and also have a direct line to Berne through the Zug State Councillor (Ständerat) Matthias Michel, who is a member of the Foundation.
Why don't you delegate Kiss to the authorities? Certain municipalities are successfully running their own neighbourhood aid projects.
You cannot dictate volunteer work from above. This should be organised by citizens in a low-threshold way, because it then has the longer-term prospects of success. It is not for nothing that the cooperative is the legal form with the longest lifespan. Each Kiss cooperative is independent, and networks its members with one another.
You want to found 70 Kiss cooperatives by 2025. An ambitious goal?
There are currently 20 Kiss organisations, and two cooperatives in the Canton of Zug: the one in Cham has existed since 2015, and in Zug since 2016. We also know of about 20 groups across Switzerland that want to found a cooperative. Having 70 cooperatives by 2025 is ambitious - but our approach has always been to work as quickly as possible.
Susanna Fassbind: for her, “Kiss” is a matter of the heart and a necessity in old-age provision
Kiss stands for "Keep it small and simple". Doesn't the umbrella organisation contradict the original idea?
This ideal still applies to the cooperatives: access to Kiss is low-threshold, you can simply network. But the background work is much more complex than we thought. At the moment we’re in the process of creating a clear basis at the foundation level that will benefit all cooperatives. This includes statutes, tax exemption, software and further training.
it seems as if many people lack the “trading currency” of Kiss today - namely taking time.
I don’t think so. We have an average of 30 percent of members who’ve never volunteered before. The time credits are an incentive for them to become involved. What is important is the increased quality of life through participation, not the credits. That's why hardly any people leave again. I myself have worked thousands of hours. For me, it's not work - it's a matter that’s close to my heart.
Three quarters of the members are women. Are they more helpful, do they have more time?
Women live longer and women tend to look for company. It is a big issue for us that, in particular, women in their pension years have little money, and are often lonely. Kiss cooperatives are important here; they help.
But the cooperatives cannot be financed with time alone.
We finance ourselves largely through sponsors, and are also supported by cantons and municipalities. Nevertheless, we have to put a lot of effort into paying for the bare essentials. The foundation also offers opportunities here. The idea now is to work more closely with business and politics. Our model should be particularly attractive for insurers and banks.
What else is in store for the Fondation Kiss 2020?
That will be decided by the board of trustees. What I can imagine: a wide range of information, possibly with a conference on volunteering, retirement and time provision. In addition, tests with Blockchain software will start in February. The idea is that future time credits can be documented using a smartphone. I have decided not to own a smartphone. If there is more security on the net, I may get one.
Time account as the fourth pillar in old age
"Kiss" stands for "Keep it small and simple". In local or regional cooperatives, members are accompanied by specialists to provide mutual support when shopping, walking, relieving relatives, at everyday events such as coffee, lunch or simply by being together. The hours worked are documented, and can be redeemed immediately or later if required.