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May 3, 2018
Time banking, an old Idea and its comeback in the modern age
Time banking, an old Idea and its comeback in the modern age

Time banking is a pattern of reciprocal service exchange, uses units of time as currency. It is a fresh example of an alternative monetary system based on a very old idea. Time banks are also known as service exchange. To understand, “what is a time bank?” We need to get an understanding about time-based currency.

About Time Based currency

A time-based currency is an alternative currency or exchange system and its unit is person-hour or some other time unit that might be fractions of an hour (e.g. minutes, ten minutes — 6 units/hour, or 15 minutes — 4 units/hour). Some time-based currencies value everyone’s contributions equally and some not. In these systems, one person volunteers to work for another person for an hour; thus, they are credited with one hour, by which in exchange they can buy an hour of service from another volunteer. While most time-based exchange systems provides service exchanges in that most exchange involves the provision of services that can be measured in a time unit, it is also possible to exchange commodity by ‘pricing’ them in terms of the average national hourly wage rate (e.g. if the average hourly rate is $10/hour, then a commodity valued at $10 in the national currency would be equivalent to 1 hour).

The History of Time Based currency

19th century

Time-based currency and time banking is an old idea first implemented in early 19th century. The National Equitable Labour Exchange was founded in 1832, by Robert Owen, a labour reformer in London, England. It issued “Labour Notes” similar to banknotes, expressed in units of time like 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 40, and 80 hours. John Gray, an economist, worked with Robert Owen and proposed a National Chamber of Commerce as a central bank issuing a labour currency.

20th Century

In the 20th century, Edgar S. Cahn coined the term “Time Dollars”. This New Currency “Time Dollars” Enables Americans to turn their hidden Resource-Time into their Personal Security & Renewal of Community, a book co-authored with Jonathan Rowe in 1992. He also used the terms “Time Bank” and “Time Credit” as trademarks.

Time banking is a community development tool. It and works by facilitating the exchange of skills and experience within a community. The aim of time banking is to build the ‘core economy’ of a community by valuing and rewarding the work done in it. In 1973, The world’s first-time bank was started in Japan by Teruko Mizushima. The idea was, the participants could earn time credits which they could spend any time during their lives. She based her bank on the simple concept that each hour of time given as services to others could earn reciprocal hours of services for the giver at some stage in the future, particularly in old age when they might need it most. In the 1990s the movement setting off in the USA United Kingdom. Dr Edgar Cahn in USA and Martin Simon in UK was the pioneer of time banking.

21th Century

In the 21st century, according to Edgar S. Cahn, time banking had its roots in a time when “money for social programs had dried up”. It is the most creative approach to social service and to solve the problems in coming age. He wrote that we can handle at least three interlocking sets of problems, these are growing inequality in access by those at the bottom to the most basic goods and services; increasing social problems stemming from the need to rebuild family, neighborhood and community; and a growing disillusion with public programs designed to address these problems” and that “the crisis in support for efforts to address social problems stems directly from the failure of piecemeal efforts to rebuild genuine community.” In particular, Cahn focused on the top-down attitude frequent and widespread in social services. He believed that one of the significant failings of most social service organisations was their unwillingness to enrol the help of those people they were trying to help. He named this approach a deficit-based approach to social service. Where organisations look the people they were trying to help only in terms of their needs, as opposed to an asset-based approach, which focuses on the contributions towards their communities that everyone can make. He gave his theory that a system like time banking could “rebuild the infrastructure of trust and caring that can strengthen families and communities.”

The Philosophy behind Time banking

He hoped that time banking “would help individuals and communities to become more self-sufficient, to sheath themselves from the vagaries of politics and to utilise the capacity of individuals who were in effect being lower to the scrap heap and dismissed as freeloaders.

As a philosophy, time banking, also known as Time Traders founded upon five principles, known as Time Banking’s Core Values

  • Everyone is an asset
  • Some work is beyond a monetary price
  • Reciprocity in helping
  • Social networks are necessary
  • A respect for all human beings

Ideally, time banking builds community. Time Bank members sometimes refer to this as a return to simpler times when the community was there for its individuals. An interview at a time bank in the Gorbals neighbourhood of Glasgow revealed the following sentiment:

Community sense

“The time bank involves everybody coming together as a community. The Gorbals has never, not for a long time, had a lot of community spirit. Way back, years ago, it had a lot of community spirit, but now you see that in some areas, people won’t even go to the chap next door for some sugar that’s what I think the project’s doing, trying to bring that back, that community sense”.

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