What is a time bank?
Time banks are a way for people to help other people in their community and be rewarded for it in time credits. For every hour you give helping someone, you receive one credit.
Everyone's time is valued equally. It doesn't matter if you are a lawyer or a handyman. One hours work equals one hours credit.
People help each other out with everything from making phone calls to sharing meals and giving lifts to the shops; anything that brings people together. Time banking values the skills that the mainstream economy does not such as : befriending people, mentoring, passing on a skill like knitting or crochet. A key premise is that everyone has something to offer. Even a housebound member with limited mobility could wait in for a parcel for instance.
Where did the idea come from?
The origins of the idea date back to 1980 when its American founder Dr. Edgar S. Cahn conceived of Time Dollars as a response to massive cuts in United states spending on social welfare. The idea reached the UK in 1988 and has seen massive growth, particularly recently as it chimes with the coalition government's Big Society agenda.
The latest statistics for time banks in the UK are:
- 90 active time & 133 developing time banks
- 15,226 actively involved participants
- 822,640 hours traded between participants to date
(Source : Timebanking U.K.)
Who can join a time bank?
Age, ability, lack of finance or limited mobility are not barriers to participating in a time bank. many limit membership to over 18s but this is only for young people's protection. They are often admitted as group members as when a local school participates.
What can time bank members do with their credits?
Members can spend their credits when they need help from someone else or give them to another person who needs help. Some time banks arrange for credits to be exchanged for services provided by member organisations such as free swimming sessions or access to training.
How do time banks operate?
They can be run on a voluntary basis with volunteers arranging and recording exchanges but as projects get bigger it is usual to employ a paid broker who will organise all the matches and skills exchanges, undertake general administration and ensure that health and safety issues are addressed.
Timebanking UK, a UK charity that promotes time banking recommend that to get a project off the ground you need a small group of at least six people willing to spend four or five hours on the project. The key roles will be: attracting and signing up new members, nurturing relationships, publicising the group and building its reputation, establishing effective IT systems for matching skills and recording exchanges, involving sympathetic partners, securing funding and ensuring the projects long term sustainability.
Excellent support is available through Timebanking UK for a small annual subscription that includes training for the time broker and key members and access to Time Online software.
How does time banking help the local community?
Timebanking reduces social isolation by involving people who may not have social networks.
Timebanking can promote intergenerational contact with young people contributing skills like gardening or running errands and older people passing on skills and experience teaching youngsters to cook or care for plants.
Timebanking encourages participants to be active within the local community. They often get involved in projects to improve the local community like cleaning up an area or improving a local park.
Timebanking can contribute to reducing health inequalities by empowering people and encouraging an active life style. Many time banks focus on a user group with particular needs; older people or people with mental health issues.
Timebanking reaches people that other initiatives find hard to involve.
Timebanking can help to address long tem unemployment by teaching people new skills and building their self confidence. Time banks can deliver work experience to young people who may never have had a job.