When we hear the word “economy” the most common thought that comes into play is the money market economy. We don’t really think about the social economy. Families, neighborhoods and communities are as equally important to a successful economy as money. TimeBanking is becoming a big builder in bringing the social economy back into focus worldwide.
We are well aware that when goods are scarce, prices go up and when they are plentiful, the prices go down. Price is how we determine the “fair value” of what we buy and sell. The ability to care for others is something that all of us possess making it worth very little in terms of money. Examples of this can be seen in the low wages the market has set for childcare, babysitting, or care for the elderly. The money economy simply does not value the kind of work it takes to create healthy homes, families, and communities.
TimeBanking is a pattern of reciprocal service exchange that uses units of time as currency. One hour spent helping someone earns one “time credit” which you can then spend for one hour of service from someone else. The exchange of services is only valued by time, not the services performed. This “one-for-one” system is designed to recognize and encourage community service, resist inflation, avoid hoarding, enable trade, and encourage cooperation among community members. The idea is create a network of endless resources within our own community while building relationships from the exchange of services that can help us to embrace the diversity around us. Exchanges are built on a sense of obligation and reciprocity, not price or supply and demand. It allows us to tap into the endless resource of special skills around us and to look within ourselves at the skills we possess, and what we can give to others.
Another plus in TimeBanking is the lack of involvement from the IRS. Because TimeBanks are not commercial barter exchanges and create no contractual rights there are no taxable consequences to volunteers who earn time credits as reimbursement for services rendered. TimeBanks are charitable in nature unlike a commercial for-profit barter club and services are received without any regard to cost.
TimeBank members can keep track of their exchanges by using TimeBanking software. Members often use the software to enter data about themselves, learn about each other, record their exchanges, and keep track of their hours. Members unable to use the internet are assigned a TimeBank “buddy” that can manage this for them.
Ideally, TimeBanking builds community; a return to simpler times when the community was there for its individuals. There are five core values that were developed to help nurture a sense of purpose and remind members of the deeper meaning of TimeBanking:
Asset: Everyone is an asset with something to give.
Redefining Work: Some work is beyond price and needs to be honored, recorded and rewarded.
Reciprocity: Helping works better as a two-way street.
Social Networks: People joined in shared purpose are stronger than individuals. By helping each other we build communities of support, strength, and trust.
Respect: Every human being matters, and when respect is denied to anyone we are all injured. We must respect where people are in the moment, not where we hope they will be at some future point.
Even though the concept of TimeBanking is to get away from money there are costs incurred in running any member-led organized group. To secure these funds, TimeBanks often will ask their members to donate a small amount of money each year and help organize fundraisers. Members and coordinators who help with the fundraising can earn time credits from the TimeBank for their services.
To date 26 countries have active TimeBanks and there are over 276 active in the U.S. To find out if there is a TimeBank in your area you can visit the Directory of TimeBanks at www.community.timebanks.org.
If you are interested in knowing more about how TimeBanks work, how to get involved, become a member, or how to start a TimeBank you can find loads of information and resources at www.timebanks.org.