So what is Time Banking?
Timebanking is a community currency concept in which time, typically hours, is used as unit of account. Services provided for in the context of time banking are valued according to the time it takes to deliver them, regardless of who does it or what the “market value” is.
It concerned with community-based volunteering by tracking service transactions with local community members in terms of the time taken to do the services. It is made on two concepts: “paying it forward” and “co-production,” as people can offer help to and get help from others repeatedly and both the provider and receiver work together to achieve desired results. Members can “earn” time by providing a service and “spend” it by receiving a service. It does not require reciprocal service exchanges, but members can give and receive services in a flexible way.
For example, a person who has a vehicle can give a senior citizen a ride to and from the hospital and be compensated with time credits. The earned time credits can then be used to ask a different timebank member to fix her computer. Although regular monetary systems time created from any type of work has the same value. At its core, time banking encourages people to use their own unique and valuable skills to help others, which help timebanks members, develop a sense of self-efficacy and achievement, trust, collaboration, and collective efforts, regardless of their professional or income level.
Timebanks are one of a number of non-profit peer-to-peer exchange systems that offer many social and practical benefits to their members. Since they use time as a form of currency to manage and facilitate exchanges between members, instead of using paper “time dollars,” many timebank organizations have started to leverage technology, for example, developing web-based software platforms to set-up and sustain a timebank as well as reduce the amount of face-to-face coordination for brokering and monitoring of services for both coordinators and members. Although the web software currently relies on advanced planning and scheduling for time banking tasks, lacking support for small exchanges in near-real time situations.
Timebanks Frankfurt has proposed that time banking systems need to adopt a more fine-grained model of time and unplanned tasks, as well as high mobility and accessibility to support broader ranges of exchanges among people in the same community, which could be accomplished by leveraging opportunities from mobile technology. Most of timebank organizations also consider access to time banking through mobile phones devices as an urgent challenge, but little has been accomplished in practice, mainly because of limited budgets and resources. Smartphones are becoming pervasive throughout society and a growing number of people are adopting them, offering the possibility of greater accessibility and support for highly mobile peer-to-peer exchanges in the context of time banking. To find out this possibility, Timebanks Frankfurt has designed and implemented time banking smartphone applications to not only facilitate traditional web and paper based time banking activities but support more very precise and spontaneous ones too with more temporal and spatial flexibility. For some members, the time bank offers a functional alternative to money, at least in certain cases.
“I’m saving up my hours. You hear stories about people who get old and have no one to take care of them. I don’t have to worry. If I ever got sick all I’d have to do is call the time bank,” says Cathy Adowski, 61, a time banker.
About: Shared Values
The five core guiding principles underlying Timebanks Frankfurts vision and mission are:
- Asset: We are all assets and we all have something to give.
- Redefining Work: Some work is beyond price but needs to be honored.
- Reciprocity: Helping works better as a two-way street.
- Social Networks: We need each other, to reweave communities of support, strength & trust.
- Respect: Every human being matters.
Volunteers have reported increased social engagement, recognition, self-esteem and social inclusion as well as forming new and deeper friendships. By valuing social services and their providers, which the conventional system assigns no monetary value to, a substantial improvement in community cohesion is achieved.
A major problem faced by most time banks relates to the lack of demand. People seem to be generally hesitant to ask for help. Because of this, the availability of services to be exchanged is often limited. Moreover, a large segment of the targeted participants (e.g. elderly and disabled) are often unable to repay their incurred debt. Nevertheless, the fact time banks have experienced dwindling transactions over time might be a sign their success. Timebanking has proven its effectiveness for establishing solid social connections. It could be the case, therefore, the members continue to help each other outside the realm of time banking.
How it works
When participants register at a local Time Bank, they submit to the central register (today mostly an online database) the types of services they are willing to offer and correspondingly the help they seek. These offers and wants directories can then be searched, members can contact other members to ask for help and record the delivered services through the online accounts.
Many services are swapped in a Time Bank include child care, elderly care, language lessons, home repair, gardening, companionship, computer tuition, help with shopping etc. In most of the prolific timebanks a broker, matchmaker or community worker will help members to find services they can get through the timebank or find ways in which to earn time credits. After a service is performed, time credits are transferred from the account of the receiver of the service to the account of the provider. In some timebanks this happens through cheques which get compiled in a central account, but mostly accounts are kept electronically and users can transact freely.
The more people share their time and skills, the healthier and happier your neighborhood will become. With time banking, everyday acts of kindness are recognized as the important contribution they are to everyone’s wellbeing. Time banking is a new and safe framework for people to connect up with each other, a letter of introduction to neighborhood life. Everyone can chip in what he or she can, when they can and be valued for the contributions they make.
Time as money
Today, people exchange virtual currencies such as Bitcoins. However, there is another form of currency with a very fixed value time. Time is money, as the old adage goes and with time banks, people living in close-knit communities can exchange hours of service to one another, banking the hours they give and redeeming those hours for other things they need. Time banking isn’t intended to replace the traditional exchange of money for work however it can provide a powerful supplement to it, and it can empower people while fostering a sense of community and service to others.
Timebanks Frankfurt is an online time banking marketplace designed to allow anyone to easily get value from his or her spare time. Time is fungible. It is the same for everyone. There are a set number of hours in the day and how each one of us spends that time is what makes us different. What sites like Timebanks Frankfurt are doing is making it easier to transact locally and worldwide with the value of time. Because after all, time cannot be bought; it can only be exchanged.
Beyond Bitcoins & Silk Road
Bitcoins are the currency of choice on the Silk Road online marketplace, which offers illegal drugs and weapons, making it far less risky for criminals to profit from the illegal trading that takes place on the site. At the moment many who work on local pounds or timebanks or Local Exchange Trading Systems simply dismiss cryptographic currencies as involving people with no community intention. Yet the combination of crypto approaches and community approaches could be truly powerful.