Sarasota/Manatee now has an alternative currency, administered by the Common Wealth Time Bank. Thanks to Don Hall of Transition Sarasota and Steve McAllister, we can share time, talent, skills, hobbies, activism, music, and community without any cash changing hands. A time bank brings a breath of fresh air when contrasted with the banking and Wall Street debacles of the last few years. In this era of scarce jobs, underemployed and unemployed people can offer skills and get the things they need. But it has the potential to be so much more.
A time bank rests on several principles. First, everyone is an asset. We all have something to offer. This sounds trite, but it's quite revolutionary. Second, some work does not have a monetary value, but should be rewarded anyway. Consider raising children, cleaning up our environment, and promoting social justice, amongst others. Third, helping works better as a two-way street. Charity is nice, but isn't it even nicer for all concerned to let the recipient give back in some form? Consider some of the anger inherent in the phrase "nanny-state" that small-government advocates throw around. In fact, most adults don't want to be treated and taken care of like children. They want to provide for themselves and others. Throw in respect for all individuals and a desire for community and it becomes apparent that there is more at play than just an alternative currency. Rather, time banks seek to strengthen community and make us all healthier. No wonder there are 275 working time banks in the United States.
It's all rather lofty, but boils down to this: each hour of work is equal to every other hour of work, regardless of the activity. Members earn credits by performing a service for another member. Driving someone to the doctor has the same time bank value as providing violin lessons. One service I offer on the Common Wealth Time Bank is a guided kayak tour near my home during sunset or the full moon. Thus far I have received an acupuncture treatment offered by another member. At the Common Wealth Time Bank launch last Monday, I spoke with one very happy member who had taken advantage of four hours of yard work offered by another member.
Time will tell what downsides there are to time banking. But, as we head out of the launch phase, here's what some local folks are saying.
Sign up for the Sarasota/Manatee Common Wealth Time Bank,
Wikipedia description of Time Banking,