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Benefits of timebanking

Timebanking as a means of exchange can be applied in so many different settings, so the benefits can reach far and wide. Broadly speaking, benefits can be distilled into three main categories, each with implications for social and economic wellbeing: economic benefits; benefits relating to social justice; and community benefits.

Economics  

Timebanking makes use of assets and resources existing within a community or group that may be overlooked in conventional economic transactions for goods and services. Through co-production, timebanking applies a multiplier effect to enlarge the pool of resources available in any system. This perspective can foster innovation by helping us to think beyond conventional assumptions about our ‘means’ and ‘limits’. In a public service setting, this equates to a greatly increased pool of resource and sphere of possibility, without having to raise additional finance.

But, just as importantly, timebanking can help bring about culture change within an organisation. Viewing your organisation through a co-production lens can reduce the burden professionals may feel in having to operate within systems that don’t solicit the active support of the people they are trying to help. Time banks herald a new, symbiotic relationship between service providers and users, so professionals don’t become swamped by an ever-rising tide of need and demands, but instead see themselves as facilitators of co-produced services.

Social justice

Equality is enshrined in every timebanking exchange through the principle of ‘an hour for an hour’. Because an hour is equally valuable to every human being, and everybody has something to give, timebanking can help some of the most marginalised people realise a sense of self worth and belonging. Timebanking can bridge divides of race, class, gender, national origin — because it defines people by what they are prepared to do for others.

In addition, timebanking brings equality of access. By creating an equal platform, where the use of a spare meeting room equates to an individual’s ability to spend time with another, for example, time bank members gain equal access to resources that might be beyond their economic means — making it possible for them to gain new skills or take advantage of training.

Time banks are successful in attracting people who might not get involved in ‘traditional’ volunteering, including those with a low income, and those who aren’t in formal employment. Only 16% of traditional volunteers have an income of under £10,000; nearly four times as many time bank participants do (58%). Of time bank participants, 72% are not in formal employment, compared with 40% of traditional volunteers. (NEF, 2002: The Time of Our Lives)

Community

Timebanking builds networks of people who give and receive support, enabling people from different backgrounds, who may not otherwise meet, to form meaningful and fruitful connections and friendships. Generating social capital in this way can enhance health, wellbeing and resilience, all of which can prevent additional needs arising. Examples include ensuring older people regularly receive and eat nutritional food, and providing a ‘circle of support’ for young people to help them avoid unhealthy or damaging choices.

Timebanking is a highly effective community development tool, empowering individuals and groups to bring about change, take control of their own lives, and galvanise their neighbourhoods.

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