I don’t know about you, but the last time I needed a cup of sugar, I hightailed it to Woolies rather than knock on the door of my neighbour. We’re just not that connected to our community anymore – and our social structure is worse off for it.
Time banking, the practice of ‘depositing’ your time in the community bank by performing a task and then being able to ‘withdraw’ it, or have it ‘refunded’ to you with a task of your choice, is picking up speed across communities in Australia (NSW has the largest time-banking community in the world, at over 6,000 people strong), the UK and the USA.
As the name suggests, the currency of the time-banking economy isn’t money, it’s time: for every minute you dedicate to helping your upstairs neighbour cook their dinner, someone will give you that time back by tending to your slowly shrivelling herb garden (if that’s lacking your efforts, of course). The exchange is between people by providing services, connecting people by tessellating strengths and weaknesses to form a connected, supportive community. Time banking injects value back into small communities by giving everyone a chance to contribute and not only fortifies your local sharing economy but also your relationship with those around you.
The exchange is between people by providing services, connecting people by tessellating strengths and weaknesses to form a connected, supportive community.
While the idea of time-based currency dates back to the 19th century, the concept dubbed “time banking” was founded by American civil rights campaigner, political speech writer and law professor Edgar S. Cahn in the 1980s, following a heart attack that left him with a personal time debt where everyday tasks would be too difficult for him to perform. Time banking was a chance to diversify the skills and value of his local community.
“It provides a platform for generating a kind of wealth different from money and for recognising critical work that markets based on money do not value,” Edgar and his colleague Christine Grey wrote in the Stanford Social Experiment Review.
TimeRepublik, based in both Italy and New York, extended their peer-to-peer skill sharing site to the US just last year.
“We [people] want them to transact,” TimeRepublik’s CEO Ted Wallach said. “We don’t want to compete with money. It negates the social capital of people working together. If you are paying someone, you are never going to get their full passion.” Did you spend 10 years perfecting your harmonica skills? That talent could be finally worth something – and that something is a lot more than money.