by Junaid Bobat
What is a time bank?
This week I have been thinking long and hard about the use of time banks as a tool for building community cohesion and social capital. In its simplest form a time bank is a mutual work trading system in which hours are the currency. With time banking, a person with one skill set can bank and trade hours of work for equal hours of work in another skill set instead of paying or being paid for services. Each hour worked entitles the individual to one time token that can be exchanged for a skill that their require. For instance Jeff spends an hour painting Donna’s bedroom and earns 1 time token. He then exchanges this earned time token for Donna to mow his lawn. The beauty of this system is that all time within the time bank is equal; an hour of work for an hour of work.
5 reasons Time banks are awesome
- Encourages co-production
Co-production and timebanking go hand-in-hand. Co-production happens when people are partners in the delivery of services they benefit from and when they are simultaneously active in achieving their own wellbeing. Timebanking motivates people to work together to build the community through those at grass roots who might have previously been forgotten or unaware of the potential for a thriving neighbourhood. This may be because of their status, age, gender, illness, lack of confidence – or too much time spent at work! – and which may have prevented them from feeling able or invited to actively participate in the neighbourhood. Time Banking and co-production are founded on the principle that everybody has skills, talent, experience, knowledge, and time to make a difference. Being valued for who they are and what they can do makes people feel good and accepted. Embodied in a spirit of equality, trust and respect, time banking helps people feel they are useful and that they belong. Once you belong you are more likely to get involved because you can see tangible benefits: friendships, help, support, learning, sharing, being part of the decision making process – and much fun right where you are! Giving back is encouraged, and the reciprocal way of exchanging services and time is an incentive to participate as ‘there is something in it for everybody’.
- People are seen as Assets
The real wealth of a society is its people. Every human being can be a builder and contributor. A timebank recognises this by allowing members to define for themselves what they consider to be a valuable asset, and enshrining its value through the hour for an hour principle
- It Redefines work
Work must be redefined to include whatever it takes to raise healthy children, preserve families, make neighbourhoods safe and vibrant, care for the frail and vulnerable, redress injustice and make democracy work. A timebank provides liquidity to activity that informally contributes towards these things.
- Encourages Reciprocity
The impulse to give back is universal. Wherever possible, we must replace one-way acts of largess in whatever form with two-way transactions. “You need me” becomes “we need each other” in a timebank.
- Builds Social capital
Humans require a social infrastructure as essential as roads, bridges and utility lines. Social networks require ongoing investments of social capital generated by trust, reciprocity, and civic engagement. A timebank creates a system that builds social capital – every action leaves a footprint.
6. Strengthens Respect
By respecting and recognising value in the contribution we can all make, we hard-wire a critical feedback loop into the way we work.