The time bank solution

By Edgar S. Cahn and Christine Gray, TimeBanks USA, Stanford Social Innovation Review |

Thirty-five years ago, one of us (Edgar S. Cahn) started to experiment with a new way to link untapped social capacity to unmet social needs. He created a practice known as “time banking” — a mode of exchange that lets people swap time and skill instead of money. The concept is simple: In joining a time bank, people agree to take part in a system that involves earning and spending “time credits.” When they spend an hour on an activity that helps others, they receive one time credit. When they need help from others, they can use the time credits that they have accumulated.

Long before Occupy Wall Street, time banking represented a commitment to pursuing a more equitable and inclusive economic order. Those of us who developed time banking wanted to show that a different kind of currency could exist alongside the dollar. We refused to give money a monopoly on the definition of value. The money-based market system fails to reward many types of critical work — the work of raising healthy children, building strong families, caring for the elderly, revitalizing neighborhoods, preserving the environment, advancing social justice, and sustaining democracy — and we believed that there should be a way to honor and reward that kind of work.

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