89.1 WEMU

Issues of the Environment: A2 TimeBank And Future Sustainability

Aug 27, 2014

Sharing and exchanging skills is not a new concept, but the A2 TimeBank hopes to corral locals into organizing into a true community resource, building for the future.  

  

Overview

  *   The A2 TimeBank is a new way for members of the Washtenaw County community to share their skills and organize to get projects accomplished.

  *   Timebanks provide credit in hours for services provided and members can use the credit to access the skills of other members at a later time. 

*   Laura Pasek founded the A2 TimeBank about a year ago, and she will explain how the organization can help marshall the volunteer hours needed for projects that benefit the environment, while also offering a payoff for volunteers.

Time Banking and the Time Bank

A time bank is a way for community members to organize and share their skills.  TimeBanks are at the center of a dynamic movement to preserve families, rebuild communities, affect systemic change, and promote transformation around the world. 

The concept is as follows: Let’s say Jack would like some help installing some flooring. Three blocks down, Helen has recent experience with this, and is happy to help. She comes over to Jack’s and helps out for 3 hours. Helen now has 3 hours of credit in the time bank, and Jack has spent three hours of time. He will have to pay that 3 hours out to other neighbors, using his own unique skills.

Time banking is a pattern of reciprocal service exchange that uses units of time as currency. It is an example of a complementary monetary system. A time bank, also known as a service exchange, is a community that practices time banking. The unit of currency, always valued at an hour's worth of any person's labor, used by these groups has various names, but is generally known as a time dollar in the USA and a time credit in the UK.

Time banking is primarily used to provide incentives and rewards for work such as mentoring children, caring for the elderly, being neighborly—work usually done on a volunteer basis—which a pure market system devalues. Essentially, the "time" one spends providing these types of community services earns "time" that one can spend to receive services. As well as gaining credits, participating individuals, particularly those more used to being recipients in other parts of their lives, can potentially gain confidence, social contact and skills through giving to others.

Communities therefore use time banking as a tool to forge stronger intra-community connections, a process known as "building social capital". Time banking had its intellectual genesis in the USA in the early 1980s. Today, 26 countries have active Time Banks. There are 250 Time Banks active in the UK and over 276 Time Banks in the U.S.

 A2 TimeBank Benefits to Sustainability

Most of the environmental non-profits in Washtenaw County will be new to the timebank concept, and all could benefit from members of their groups signing on. Timebanks are an innovative way to leverage volunteers for community projects that benefit the environment, while allowing individuals that perhaps have no environmental knowledge to contribute their skills.

Time banks are a unique way to contribute to sustainability in several ways. For example, if a school group or neighbor would like help removing invasive species, they could offer volunteer hours to a group like the Wild Ones. Or if someone wants help planning a home using sustainable materials, they could offer to can organic produce from the school garden for a builder of sustainable homes. The web that is created helps to get jobs done in the community at a time when many organizations struggle to recruit volunteers for their projects.