Why Time Banking?

Mendo TIme Bank

June 11, 2009 Ukian, Mendocino County, North California

When times get tough, our most important asset is a resilient and supportive community. More secure than money in the bank, and more long-lasting than storing food and water; creating a more self sufficient community is the smartest investment we can make now. Mendo Time Bank started with those goals in mind.

Time Banking was started in the 1980’s by Edgar Cahn in Washington DC as a way to compensate for the cutback of social services.  It has become an international phenomenon, and there are hundreds of Time Banks all over the US and the world. In general they are started to help the local community meet unmet needs with untapped resources.

Whether based in inner city schools, jails, cities or rural communities, the effect is the same: they strengthen the community by creating an incentive and market for people to help each other. Each hour helping somebody in the network earns the giver one Time Dollar that they can then spend on any other service offered by members.

A Time Bank is both a system of quantifying community credit, and a network of people that are ready to support each other. Time Banking is a mutual credit system, as members can earn credit anywhere in their community and spend the credit on anything else.  At any given time, half of the members will have a positive Time Dollar account balance, and half will have a negative account balance with a total net balance of zero. Instead of a third party charging interest on the credit, we extend credit to each other without interest.

As the national economy contracts, the supply of money coming in to the local economy decreases, and people spend less money at local businesses. This causes further contraction and job losses. However, because we live in a place with abundant natural resources and local talent, it doesn’t make sense to be dependent on a relatively scarce currency beyond our control.

Having a community credit system based on time avoids the problem of scarcity, because value is created by members as it is needed. It is 100% independent of our national monetary system, making it the most useful for people who are currently undercompensated financially. Furthermore, it is not subject to the shocks and fluctuations of a national currency. One hour always equals one Time Dollar, and our skills and local resources back the value.

Currently there are over a hundred members of Mendo Time Bank, offering each other everything from bread baking to graphic design, fruit tree pruning to babysitting. They are helping each other do childcare, window washing and flyer posting, all with no money involved.

There’s no doubt that joining a Time Bank will increase your opportunities for getting your needs met, but it is also about creating the kind of community and economy that will support us no matter what.

One Comment

really great essay, thanks!