Thursday, August 6, 2009

What is a timebank?

A timebank is a community currency system designed to pool the resources of the community and distribute those resources in a decentralized way. Timebanks are a kind of mutual credit accounting system, where credit between two parties is created at the time of transaction. While there may not be enough US dollars in a community to create needed exchanges, mutual credit is abundant in that anyone can provide a service and get credit if they have the time.

One member is debited a certain number of hours in her account in receipt of a service and another member is credited the same number of hours in his account for giving a service. Each member has a balance, which is the sum of their credit and debits. When a member gives as much as she receives, her balance is zero. Negative balances are both allowed and encouraged as they represent circulation of resources within the community.

Timebanks also function as a directory of resources, listing the members of the system and what their gifts, offers and requests are. This helps build a stronger local economy by enabling people to identify others that may be able to meet their needs locally. It also helps people to get know others that they might not otherwise meet in our neighborhoods.

One aspect that distinguishes timebanks from other kinds of mutual credit systems is that everyone's time is valued equally. This aspect encourages people whose time is undervalued in the market - women, the elderly, people of color, and the disabled - to join this more equitable system. On the other hand, people who are valued higher in the market, because of physical traits, training, or education often join timebanks because they like being part of a more equitable system and realize its importance in creating a healthy and peaceful community.

When time offered based on the hour and not based on trying to get the highest market value, this helps to create a more cooperative culture since people aren’t competing to get the best deal. It creates a consciousness shift where you don't have to focus on keeping score so much because there is less scarcity in the system, allowing other values, context and relationships to emerge and determine the perception of the value of the exchange. This in turn encourages a more giving, caring and trusting culture. Additionally, when people aren't rewarded for work with money at an amount determined by the market, their hidden gifts and passions can emerge, creating a society of more happy and self-actualized people.

1 comment:

  1. to followup on cooperative relationships, the negative balance is often uncomfortable for people new to the concept of a mutual credit system.

    the reason is that everyday experience has shown that a negative balance is a burden on their psyche because of the antagonistic relationship between the borrower and the private lender. the private lender is privatizing the borrower's own credit and lending it back with interest.

    it's not the case with a mutual credit system. a member is often extended credit (how far negative the balance can go) in proportion to their giving, so, like you said, the relationship is cooperative instead of antagonistic.

    quality is superior with mutual credit. there's a number of contributing factors including consciousness and transparency.