In today’s world, once irrefutable economic concepts are being stretched and transformed in new ways. Fundamental beliefs about the scarcity of resources, the basis of an industrial economy, are being challenged by the emergence of information economies and sharing economies. These economies are built on the foundation of abundance–abundance of creativity, ideas, collective intelligence, and information flow.
I recently joined the DC Timebank, which is an excellent example of a sharing economy. Timebanks aim to “nurture and expand a movement that promotes equality and builds caring community economies through inclusive exchange of time and talent.” Inherent in Timebanking culture is the belief that we are all assets and we all have something to offer. Some of us speak many languages, some of us are great musicians, others are web developers, painters, writers, athletes, take your pick. On the flip side, we all have needs and aspirations. My neighbor down the street might want to become a great guitar player, another might want to learn Spanish, still another might need help moving heavy furniture, or need a ride to work.
Timebanks provide us with a unique platform to ask each other questions that we might not otherwise. Timebankers are building new relationships and strengthening their communities by discovering the answers to questions like “what can I learn from you that you want to teach me?” and “what can I offer you that you might need?”. We’ll certainly never know if we don’t ask each other. But the real power of the Timebanking philosophy is that we don’t end our conversation by asking, “how can I help you?” Instead, we are encouraged to ask “how can we help each other build the world we both will live in?”. Notice the powerful replacement of the words “you” and “I’ with “we”.
Timebanks reinforce the social fabric of communities by creating a culture of reciprocity sharing, and mutuality. When I joined the DC Timebank, I listed three things that I’m able to give to the community and three things I hope to receive from the community. Every time I give an hour of my time for a guitar or photography lesson, I earn a “time dollar”, which can be redeemed for an hour of another Timebanker’s time. The result is a world brimming with opportunity. In this world, there are endless possibilities to give to and receive from a pool of inexhaustible communal resources. I’ve been meaning to learn how to cook a mean paella, build a chair with own hands, and develop an app in Drupal. Admittedly, I’ll need a pretty hefty supply of time dollars in the bank to accomplish all that, but I suppose that just means I need to line up lots of guitar lessons – any takers?
Timebanking replaces money as a primary unit of exchange with time. And isn’t time the quintessential currency anyhow–what’s more valuable than our time? It also produces important positive externalities, strengthening the resilience and solidarity of our local communities. As I mentioned in my last post, we live in volatile times. The continuing prospect of social, economic, and environmental crises is almost assured. Strong, networked, resilient communities are best positioned to meet the challenges we face in future.
So, as you’re thinking about the giving and receiving that comes along with holidays, I invite you to join a Timebank near you. If you don’t have one nearby, start one. You’ll be amazed by the people you meet, the things you do, and the joy you feel.