Time Banks – an alternative economy

What is a  TimeBank?

TimeBanks are virtual currency systems where people can trade their time, usually supporting friends, neighbors, relatives, in day to day activities.

Say you want to help someone in your community. You can find a local TimeBank, search for people requiring your help, and get virtual credit for the work done. For example – your neighbor John needs help with painting his fence. It will take you two hours to do that, and that is the amount you will get credited with in your timebank account. Now say you want to learn a little bit of French, in order to be prepared for your upcoming trip to Paris. You can go check the local TimeBank, search for a teacher and get two hours of french lessons.

TimeBanks have a very interesting aspect to it – they value each one’s time equally, which is something our usual economic approach doesn’t. Classic economics value scarcity and demand. A surgeon’s time is much more valuable than a bus driver’s because there are less surgeons compared to bus drivers, there is less demand for bus drivers etc. etc.. There is more demand for cars than for bikes or roller blades. From a somehow limited point of view this would work perfectly but…

Why TimeBanks?

Anyone can take care of the elders with a little bit of training. Unfortunately there is little demand and the financial incentives are not quite motivating in helping the poor or taking care of the elder. Such activities cannot offer the kind of financial benefits our society tells us we need to get in order to offer our services, knowledge or help.

This is where the TimeBanking concept seems to fit very well. The activities involved in TimeBanking can be charity, neighborhood help or such but they can also reap benefits. As an alternative currency TimeBank “dollars” or “credits” can be used to receive as well as give. In this system services are offered voluntarily, cannot be taxed and strengthen social bonds between those in the TimeBank network.

Global TimeBanking

At the moment TimeBanking functions more like a form or charity or local networking platform but if the concept catches on globally, engaging ever more complex tradable skills, it might work as a parallel economy with spectacular results.

Such a global movement will, at some point, need an internet infrastructure able to meet billion of interactions, members and make sure the system generates as little fraud attempts as possible.

Here are some links for further reading:

http://www.timebanking.org/ – Time Banking UK
http://timebanks.org/ – Time Banks USA
http://groups.drupal.org/time-banking – Drupal Based Time-Banking Software

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