"A Time for Transformation: Banking on Families & Communities to be the Change" was the title of the 2011 TimeBanks USA conference held at Brown University this past weekend (August 4-7). More than 150 people attended from as far away as the UK and Spain for an information-packed program that featured the unveiling of their new mission statement* (see below, and it's also on the blackboard in the photo), a preview of the organization's new website, which is to go live in the next few days, and the brand-new, Drupal-built "Community Weaver 2.0" website that is a robust tool for handling unlimited numbers of new TimeBanks and streamlining the management of the more than 270 TimeBanks currently set up in the United States.
What is Time Banking? The short answer is: Time Bank members spend an hour or several hours doing something for another member, thereby earning "Time Dollars" that are recorded in their TimeBank on Community Weaver. they can in turn spend the hours they have banked when members do something for them. Members list what they would like to do for others, and search the services offered to spend their Time Dollars on what they need done. Everyone's time has equal value: one hour equals one hour. Time Dollars are an alternate currency, a complementary currency (but not a replacement) to money as we usually think of it, sorely needed as we watch the Dow and S&P plunge these days.
The basic idea is simple, but the practice of Time Banking would have profound and substantial benefits for Rhode Island if we could "get" this. It clearly can integrate into the existing programs of environmental and social service groups and reinvigorate our neighborhoods. It values EVERY Rhode Islander equally and has tremendous potential for positive societal change.
The TimeBanks website is the place to begin exploring. Check now, but also go back and check in a few days when the new website is sure to be live. They have immensely improved the training materials, resources, and support. In the more than 30 years since Edgar Cahn came up with the idea, they have worked out solutions to many of the problems that have sunk earlier time banking experiments and trials. Time Banking's time has come!
To get started, I highly recommend hearing an 8-minute interview with Edgar Cahn (pictured in the photo above) on NPR July 19, 2011, "Beyond Bartering: Banking On Community Connections." It will whet your appetite for reading his books, such as "No More Throw Away People." Talk about a recycling program!
There already is a Rhode Island TimeBanks Initiative currently under the auspices of the Parent Support Network of RI. Our local TimeBanks movement is poised to develop quickly as we catch on to this way of working together for the common good. We are fortunate that the Executive Director of the RI TimeBanks, Lisa Conlan-Lewis, is also on the Board of Directors of TimeBanks USA and is developing member services. Rhode Island is already wired into the national movement and resources.
I will be writing about this in more detail on the Providential Gardener and sharing updates to ecoRI on Time Banking as I read up on this fascinating and practical approach to getting necessary work done. There is so much to say, and Rhode Island is the perfect place to make Time Banking take off big time.
*TimeBanks USA Mission Statement:
"To nurture and expand a movement that promotes equality and builds caring community economies through inclusive exchange of time and talent."