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Local Currencies to Build Resiliency: TIME-DOLLARS
What if time really were money? At the Time Bank Store in Dane County, Wisconsin, it is.
The store is the first of its kind in Wisconsin, and the unusual thing about it is that your
US currency is completely useless inside.
The Time Bank Store is a project of the Dane County Time Bank - based in Madison,
Wisconsin, and surrounding communities - which aims to connect community members
so they can provide services for each other. It's kind of like the old-fashioned bartering,
except through a highly organized exchange system that eliminates the quid pro quo
aspect. In other words, you don't always get a service from the person you serve.
Through the Dane County Time Bank - part of a network of Time Banks across the
country tracked and supported by TimeBanks USA -every hour an individual or
organization volunteers to help another member of the bank earns a "Time Dollar", which
s/he can then spend on receiving an hour of service from anyone else in the network.
Volunteer services can range from giving someone a ride to the doctor or on errands;
helping with home repair, child care, or cleaning; home visits for the elderly; or even
activities such as going out dancing or playing games with someone who needs a
"I view the Time Bank as a social safety net that we can provide as a community,
because our government is not adequately providing that kind of net for people," says
Stephanie Rearick, director of the Dane County Time Bank. "We see this as a way we
can step in and do things for each other."
The Dane County Time Bank steering committee made a commitment right from the
start to involve members from a broad cross-section of the community. The result?
"It just exploded," says Rearick. "We have 900 members in all different parts of the county
and all the different neighborhoods throughout town. It's huge."
Time Dollar transactions at the Dane County Time Bank were conducted solely online
and by phone when it launched in October 2005. However, the project has grown so
successfully that they opened the Time Bank Store in November of 2008, a
brick-and-mortar location where people could bank and spend Time Dollars. In addition,
the Time Bank Store doubles as a thrift shop where people can donate and purchase
goods ranging from toiletries to furniture.
FOSTERING RESILIENT COMMUNITIES
Especially in tougher economic times, models like Time Banking can be a creative way
of cutting back on spending while still getting goods and services one needs. By working
outside of a mainstream economic frame-work, community networks create ways of
sharing and providing services that don't rely on the exchange of currency. And while
currency and markets fluctuate, strong community ties are a constant.
In fact, a report recently released by The New Economics Foundation in Britain proposed
Time Banking as a "recession-proof means of exchange," given the cracking of
mainstream global economic structures.
Particularly in the current economic climate, Rearick says that systems like Time Dollars
support one another when governments fall short.
As first conceived in1980 by economist Edgar Cahn - 1998 winner of Green America's
Building Economic Alternatives Award - the philosophy behind "Time Dollars" is based
on the idea that we can best build community when everyone's contributions are valued
equally. Where our current economic structures do not attribute the same value to
everyone's labor- for instance, unpaid work within the home such as housework, raising
children, or elder care does not hold any monetary value within mainstream economic
models- the Time Dollar system is based on equality and reciprocity for labor. One hour
equals one service credit in the system no matter what the service, and thus encourage
reciprocal community service.
Where monetary transactions are characterized by fleeting exchanges, time banking
fosters community building at the most basic level because it encourages interaction..
"In the beginning, I was more interested in the economic impact it could have ," says
Rearick. "But now that I am immersed in it, I think it is a wonderfully powerful
community-building tool. ... This is the first thing I've seen that really reaches across
demographic boundaries and helps build relationships and trust in a community across
income, race, class, and neighborhoods." - Natasha Abbas
You don't have to join or start a Time Bank to get the benefits of cooperative skill-sharing.
See "Focus on Community Connections" on p. 12 of Green America's (formerly Coop
America's) "Green American: SPRING 2009" at for details you can use today.
For more information on starting or finding a Time Bank near you, contact TimeBanks
USA, 202/685-5200, www.timebanks.org
Tom Kuna is currently working with others to establish a "Five-County Time Bank" in the
Illinois Counties of Calhoun, Jersey, Greene, Macoupin and Madison, which is a
naturally-occurring economic area in the St.. Louis Metro-East-North (Alton Area).
He also hopes to work with others to found a Metro-St. Louis InTerra and B2B economic
circle and other such economic circles based in the Illinois Regional Superintendencies
of Public Schools, hoping staff unions in schools around the State will agree to contracts
accepting 5-15% of their pay in their ROE TimeDollars, InTerras, and/or B2Bs in concert
with the Business and Trades and Labor Communities in each ROE.