Why should anyone wish to introduce a timebank or use timebanking as a means of exchange? If it is just a mechanism for organising activity, what is so special about it?
Co-production is the answer. Timebanks are mechanisms for achieving coproduction.
The co-production principle asserts that there is more capacity in an economic system than that simply defined by the market. For example, the market assigns a high value, through price, to resources that are scarce, and a low value to things that are commonly or universally available. That means the market doesn’t adequately value certain activities until they become truly scarce: caring, learning, imparting values, sharing, socialising, raising children, being a good neighbour, helping others —all contributions that can be made by every human being.
Co-production is about elevating the status of this second, informal, economy, so that we utilise these abundant assets more effectively.
If we consider a public service example, by operating in the traditional manner interventions often fail to value the contribution that can be made by the individual who is in need themselves. The bulk of money goes on developing a specialised solution, not in recognising the value and the abundant assets that lie in the source of the problem itself —the individual. Public services do not often utilise those assets effectively. As a public service system, the assets that exist — in the mental health patient, in the aging population, in the ‘problem family’ —are not being made the most of. By taking a co-production approach we are saying that by mobilising the hidden people power and resource that exists in all of us, we can send a different signal: ‘People can.’
Co-production assumes that people can. By enlisting clients as partners we can multiply government spending and unlock an abundance of people power. We can create a multiplier effect.
So co-production is about drawing a bigger boundary around the economy and actually saying the universal assets that lie in the system are valuable too. By utilising them and investing in them, our realm of what is possible suddenly becomes significantly broader. Co-production is about investing in people’s ability to solve their own problems. By valuing and utilising the abundant assets that exist in human beings, a multiplier effect can unleash social value and generate more from our money.
Timebanking is a means of exchange build for abundance – for the assets that lie dormant in people and organisations. By bringing these assets to life, and allowing people equitable access to them, we no longer need to talk about a resource crisis. We can say that People Can!