‘Time is money’ as the saying goes, yet what if time didn’t earn money and instead, it earned time? What if everyone was considered financially equal and we could pay for services in exchange for our time?
This was the theory of Professor Edgar Cahn in 1980, who invented a revolutionary system called Time Banking.
With limited mobility following a heart attack, Cahn thought about people often considered useless or dismissed (senior citizens, children, teenagers, those with a disability) because they don’t earn a wage . He wanted to redefine ‘work’ and give equal value to the skills of every individual.
By enabling people to exchange time for time, Cahn had created a tool which would enrich community development and engagement. Long term, time banking resulted in reducing isolation and increasing socialisation, skills development and overall wellbeing.
To date, approximately 1000 time banks are running globally (282 in the UK) and notably Brazil is hosting over 100k members remotely to support the exchange of skills en masse.
So when Lee Hind from Pembrokeshire’s Association of Voluntary Services (PAVS) launched Pembrokeshire Time Banking and his work attracted a personal visit from Professor Cahn himself, we knew good things were in store.
Lee told us about the work PAVS have been doing locally to develop six time banks over the last 12 months, how the community has benefited to date and what’s in the pipeline for the future.
Encouraging circles of giving
So exactly how does a Time Bank work?
For each hour someone spends sharing a skill to contribute to a local project or a member of the community, one time credit is earned. A skill is defined as ‘something another person will find useful’, e.g. gardening, painting, accountancy, assisting with a creative workshop, picking up a delivery from the post office for someone, etc.
Each time credit can be exchanged for one hour of someone else’s time or (project dependent) an activity provided by a partnering organisation.
By removing the payment aspect from these transactions, focus moves to positioning people at equal value, and at the forefront is the importance of giving and two-way engagement.
If we think about which members of society around us would benefit from our skills or kindness locally, the list is pretty long. And likewise, the list of skills we could benefit from ourselves in return, is of similar length.
Traditional volunteering involves the same giving process, from those who genuinely want to give their time and skills to something worthwhile.
However, time banking provides an extra incentive; for people to trade authentically and receive something in return, and to feel valued, not financially, but for their skills and abilities as a human.
Community engagement and socialisation
The Pembrokeshire Time Bank has initially trialled the concept of individuals trading time for leisure activities.
Time Bankers have enjoyed activities including; attending a Haverfordwest AFC match, a pool session at a Pembrokeshire leisure centre or the Blue Lagoon, a show/film at the The Torch Theatre, a visit to the National Park’s Carew Castle and even a show from internationally renowned circus NoFit State, thanks to the support of these local organisations.
Participation has been good and members have enjoyed giving their time to a number of projects. They have helped set up Breakfast Club and art workshops at the VC Gallery, cleared Himalayan balsam from the paths in Haverfordwest, transported pottery from storage to a medieval exhibition in Newport, provided a soup lunch for the residents at The Mount community centre and children at Tanyard Youth Project have made and served continental pancakes to their peers.
From the feedback gathered so far, it’s evident there are huge community-bridging benefits to time banking; meeting new people, learning new skills, building confidence and feeling a sense of achievement are some of the key highlights.
When asked what they like about time banking, people commented as follows:
- The company with others within the community. To learn new skills. But, mostly for the help and assistance to gaining more experience for my forthcoming approval of fostering.
- Getting to know more people, participating in more activities and access to other facilities.
- One of the best things to come out of the Time Bank is getting to know more people in Newport also the Gentle Exercise class, where again we get to know more people and help to strengthen our muscles and avoid falls.
- It encourages people to work together.
- Meeting new people, making new friends
- It gave me more confidence – so much so, I applied for a job!
- I like the idea of getting something back from giving up your time.
- I like the concept of the Time bank, helping individuals that would otherwise struggle to get help with general jobs like gardening.
- I like that you get a sense of achievement from helping vulnerable people.
- I like the community spirit.
- Good way to get the community working together for the sole purpose of helping people.
This feedback cements that people are not viewing time banking as a ‘reward system’, but an exchange of unique things that money can’t buy.
Reducing GP visits via social prescribing
Some of the longer running time banks are starting to notice the positive effect time bank participation is having on the mental health of their communities. GPs report that a large portion of patients suffering from low mood/confidence, anxiety and depression can be better helped by people than by pills.
Pembrokeshire Time Banking is making good progress to help local people find ways of managing their emotional and physical health and as the project evolves, the impact it will have on transforming the way we live will be phenomenal.
The organisers of Long Beach Time Bank, USA have recorded how their project is positively impacting their community. Watch the video below to hear what the members have to say.
The next step for Pembrokeshire Time Banking?
To push this initiative to the next level, Lee and his team are now exploring ways to enable people to trade time with people remotely, a system already successfully in other areas.
IF an online Pembrokeshire time bank goes live, the world of volunteering will become a very different place and one that everyone wants to contribute to.
What skills can you offer to Pembrokeshire Time Banking? And how could others potentially help you?
Get involved with the Pembrokeshire Time Banks
Thanks to the financial support of Public Health Wales and the Integrated Care Fund, PAVS has successfully developed six time banks over the last 12 months through partnership with community projects. Everyone is welcome to get involved:
Newport Community Library – meets every Monday at 1pm
VC Gallery in Haverfordwest – meets every Friday at 9:30am, come and join us for breakfast!
Mount Community Centre – meets every Tuesday at 3pm running crafting sessions, lunch club and more!
Queens Hall Narberth – meets every Monday 10am
Pembroke Dock Community School (need to have a family member in the school to join) – meets every Tuesday at 1:30pm
Tanyard Youth Project (must be a member of the Tanyard to join) meets every Wednesday at 4:30pm
Find out more at the Volunteering Fair on 5th June
If you’d like to find out more about how get involved in time banking, visit the stand at the Pembrokeshire Volunteering Fair on 5th at Riverside in Haverfordwest call Lee Hind on 01437 769 422 or email email@example.com
This story is part of the Life Seeker newspaper