Monday, November 16, 2009

Proposal for a Time Dollar Store/Cafe/Community Center

I've been thinking of ways to get the time exchange/hour-based currencies some wings. Reading John Curl's book, the Hidden History of Cooperation, Cooperative Movements, and Communalism in America, I found some inspiring experiments during the last great depressions in the US. Over 100,000 people in CA organized time exchanges with their own stores, warehouses, foundries, mills, farms, health care centers and so on- all based on time and many on a very egalitarian basis during the 1930's. They were able to incorporate the production and distribution of goods in a way that seems to not have been matched in recent history with LETS and Timebanks.

I believe having regular spaces to meet, facilitate exchanges of service and goods, and a place to store contributed goods is extremely important. They would provide an location for regular interactions which would facilitate community and trust building which is essential to a shift from an anonymous, alienated and decontextualized currency system and economy to a more relationship-oriented one. Having space to donate goods at no cost and in exchange for time credits and to pick up goods in exchange for time served would make goods circulation much more efficiently. Additionally, providing space where healing work, repairs and classes could be held at no cost would facilitate service exchanges. Finally, having a cafe where people could eat together in exchange for volunteering time would create potential for community bonding over food and be inclusive of those that can can not afford to hang out at restaurants and cafes. Overall, this venue would be a vivid demonstration of a completely different kind of economy and cultural consciousness shift where everyone, as long as they have some time, can participate regardless of their economic status. It would create a new space where everyone is valued equally and while there is some score-keeping as far as hours worked, there is less of an emphasis on competitive market value and more on the quality of the work and time given. More of an emphasis on mutual aid- helping each other out.

So my proposal is for a cafe/community center/time dollar store (with gift/donation section). There would be a staff person who could help manage the space and store and help people log into their accounts. Also, this might be the place where people could draw down on positive timebank accounts and receive paper hour currency that could be used at other participating local stores. I am imagining a space that nurtures a new economic ethos, spiritual interconnectedness, and takes profit out of the equation allowing other values to emerge. I am thinking of calling it "Time for (a) Change" or "Quality Time Cafe".

I met someone from the socially responsible investing sector at the Green Festival this weekend that wants to pull together investors for me so I can do a presentation and pitch. I will let you know how this goes. Real estate is a huge hurdle here because of the cost (although it might help to put it in a community land trust), but there are also lots of people with lots of money. It's just a matter of finding the right ones who are ready to make a real change. I hope you will be inspired to do something similar in your community. If you are interested in investing in or otherwise helping with this project, please contact me at Thanks!

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