07 / 1993
The Anthroposophy movement founded by Rudolf Steneir has promoted many alternative banks such as GLS (Germany), Triodos (the Netherlands)and Mercury (UK). Janus was set up in 1988 in Italy in order to operate nationally along the lines of these European models. It was originally an Anthroposofic movement project, but now also operates outside the movement both as regards attracting new funds and supporting new projects. Janus projects an image of money as a tool of relations among people. Janus is not only concerned with the economic side of a project, but intends to support above all projects with socially oriented aims such as schools, alternative medicine, organic farming and nonviolent toys. Janus has set up internal discussion mechanisms that allow members to control and take financial decisions including the sector, type of project, person and or organization to be supported. Interest rates are agreed to with cooperatives and individuals that receive the financial support and vary according to the project sectors. Active interest rates are also agreed with each member of the cooperative.
Most of the work is carryed out on a voluntary basis. One part-time member of staff is in charge of the day to day work. Twice a month requests for financial support are discussed by the Board of Directors which considers the social relevance of projects, their economical feasibility and the profile of individuals and organizations running them. On the basis of this evaluation, the Board of Directors decides on a loan reinbursement plan.
Janus’ memembers receive a regular newsletter informing them about the financing scheme and the projects supported. Janus’ profits come mainly from active interest rates on savings and from consultancy work on financial and fiscal matters.
Janus’ social capital and savings are at present sufficient. Nevertheless this positive financial situation is possible only because of the voluntary work of a number of Janus’ members. Savings are also being invested at a slower rate. This is probably due to the general ambiguity in the Italian law governing cooperatives and their future.
Janus is a very demanding organization which requires its members to be strongly committed. Some of them not only contribute by placing their savings with the financial scheme, but also donate money to the Janus fund. Being active at national level also creates the problem of guaranteeing continuity in the relationship with members in the various regions. This is why Janus organizes national meetings for its members. Some of them have expressed doubts about the social relations within Janus and the sustainability of an organization that relies on voluntary work to such a degree.
Translated by Alessio Surian
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