Timebanking as a response to inequality

2 Sep

 “Inclusion means to be part of something, to be connected with other people, in an equitable way… there’s equality in inclusion”.[1]

The increasing level of inequality that we face in our nation today is leading to more social exclusion felt by a larger proportion of our population.  

Social exclusion refers to the inability of people to fully participate in the ordinary activities of citizens; and to find barriers to reaching their social, civil and political rights.[2] These barriers can be experienced by anyone but are more often experienced by people with disabilities, mental health illness and those living in poverty. As Robert Partnum explains, ‘The more divided incomes are,  the more [people]  live in different places, the less they see each other’s lives and the less empathy they have for other people.’[3]

Timebanking is a response to an economic framework that values what is scarce over what is most valuable in our society – sharing, loving, bringing up children, civic participation, being a good neighbour, good friend and good human.[4] (Edgar Cahn)


12 timebank members build a compost and garden bed for another member who’s always dreamed of having a garden.

A timebank is a community of people who offer their skills and services to each other based on a currency of time. One hours work earns you a time credit. You can use that time credit to buy an hour of someone elses time. Through the act of time banking people build relationships, are valued for their skills and get their needs met . Essentially, each individual that participates is taking an active part in building and supporting their own community.

Timebanking is built on the foundations of reciprocity and equality. Reciprocity calls for active  engagement – the act of giving and receiving being of equal importance. In other words, to contribute to society one must both give time and energy to others and ask for help in return. The foundation of equality removes the stigma of skills being valued differently according to their economic status. It recognises all skills as equal and therefore having value.

In a society where inequality is experienced in a very real way, timebanking allows people opportunities to participate, contribute and be valued. People are re-defined as assets, not judged on what they ‘lack’. This allows those who have been socially excluded due to increasing inequality to participate on equal standing with everyone else. The act of trading allows people to form relationships across established (and expanding) social boundaries. As increasing inequality in Aotearoa/ New Zealand  reduces these opportunities, timebanks are opening those spaces back up and encouraging people to see each other, interact with each other and continue to build strong social values that are driven by equality and reciprocity.

Hannah Mackintosh

A version of this article was first published on the Closer Together Whakatata Mai website

[1] Stories of Success, Mental Health Foundation Research Report 2014, p. 37

[2] Stories of Success, Mental Health Foundation Research Report 2014

[3] This is a quote is taken from a video of Max Rashbrooke that can be found here.

[4] For more info on this see Timebank founder Edgar Cahn’s book, No More Throw-Away People


Half of a Discussion on Drones

13 Jul

A few months ago, a newly set-up think tank, Diplosphere, held a panel discussion on drone strikes and whether they are in New Zealand’s interest. Throughout the discussion, people talked about how important it is that a new forum focused specifically on international affairs has started up in New Zealand. This is true and forums like these have the potential to encourage more people to feel part of what’s going on in the wider world and to care about the role New Zealand plays within this.


Speaking to someone involved with Diplosphere afterwards, he commented that he felt they had been able to assemble a diverse range of the panellists who brought very different perspectives to the issue. In many ways this was true; there were law lecturers, a journalist, a politician and an international relations professor. The discussion was interesting and the panellists were well informed, insightful and at times inspiring.


The thing is though, they were also all white men. We’re not just talking about a three-person panel here either; there were six panellists, plus the chair and the event host. That’s eight men and not a single woman. When I raised this issue with someone after the discussion, I was told that it’s difficult because there just “aren’t any women”. Presumably, this meant no women who know enough about drones and international security.

Continue reading

Can we at least talk about women’s political participation?

14 Jul

Last year, I was involved in promoting women’s political participation during the elections in Sierra Leone and Ghana. Women’s representation in parliament in both countries is low, in Sierra Leone it dropped to 12.4% following the election and in Ghana it raised marginally to 10.9%. In both countries, the belief that women are not suited to politics has created many barriers to women’s political participation. Women are marginalised from political party networks which often act as ‘old boys’ clubs; there is frequent verbal (and sometimes physical) violence against female candidates; and the often inflexible demands of political life make it difficult for many women to balance a career in politics with childcare responsibilities.

Before working on this, I had no idea what the rate of women’s representation in parliament was in New Zealand so I looked it up one day. It was 32%. That’s low I thought, someone should talk about it. Then I forgot about it again until it was brought up a week ago when it became public that a proposal from Labour’s national council to use affirmative action policies to increase the number of female Labour MPs would be voted on at the party’s annual conference in November. As part of the proposal, a target would be set to have women make up 45 % of Labour MPs by 2014 and 50 % by 2017. Along with this, a list moderating committee would ensure the correct ratio of women get into parliament and Local Electorate committees could ask the NZ Council to assign certain seats as only open for women’s selection.

Continue reading

Marriage Equality: Culture Wars One

12 Nov

Back in August Kiri and I both wrote about the marriage equality bill put forward by Labour MP Louisa Wall. I said I was going to ask some people what marriage means for them, in attempts to foster a more compassionate and productive discussion. I have finally got around to it!

What follows is a quick interview with my friend Susan, followed by a brief discussion. Susan is in her early 30s and has been married and divorced, attended a Christian church during her teenage years and also just had a baby with her partner.

G: Do you support marriage equality legislation?

S: Yes – because of the word equality. I see no reason to deny anyone the right to marry based on their sexual orientation.

G: Is the idea of getting married to someone important to you?

S: Personally no, but that is based on a past experience of being in an unhappy marriage. I think there are more important signifiers of a committed relationship than a marriage certificate. In saying that, I wouldn’t rule out getting married again.

G: What does marriage signify for you?

S: In the past it has signified one person being submissive to another. However, this is something I would like to redefine for myself!

G: Do you think marriage equality is a significant issue and needs to be discussed? Continue reading

Marriage Amendment Bill: What Happens Now?

31 Aug

On Wednesday, while standing outside of Parliament listening to inspiring speeches in favour of marriage equality, I was asked by a couple of friends “What next? How many times will this have to pass a vote in the House?” After some hemming and hawing I had to admit that even though I had posted on this subject, I couldn’t quite remember the details. Thus, with Wednesdays First Reading vote in favour of Louisa Wall’s Marriage Amendment bill, now is a pertinent time to re-post a previous blog on how bills become law. Wall’s bill is currently proceeding into the third phase of the process where it will go before a select committee. If marriage equality is something you feel passionately about and you are worried that the loud and caustic voices of social conservatives are being heard excessively, now is your chance to comment on the future you see for New Zealand. Opportunities like this don’t come along very often so if you are keen to make a submission information how to do so can be found here. For a great summary of the first debate about this bill in House, check out Gordan Cambells blog here.

1.    Introduction: A bill is made publically available and is announced in the House. There are four types of bill that can be introduced, Government bills which are part of the governments legislative programme to enable their policy platform, Members bills which can be introduced by members other than ministers; Local bills that are prompted by local authorities and deal with matters confined to a particular locality and Private bills- which are uncommon and provide for a particular interest in the form of an exemption for the general law for an individual or group of people (for example, it would enable two people to marry who are too closely related to married such as adopted siblings).  Bills are publically available here. The Marriage Amendment bill was introduced through a ballot as a Members bill. Continue reading

Reduced services at Rape Crisis

16 Aug

I recommend that everyone reads this blog piece responding to the announcement that Wellinton Rape Crisis will have to close its doors on Fridays due to a lack of funds:

This is no country for women

Today one of Wellington’s most vital and underappreciated services, Wellington Rape Crisis,announced that they will be reducing their service by a day per week. They simply cannot keep up with the demand for their services without adequate funding, and they are uncertain of their future due to operating under a $55,000 deficit.

Wellington Rape Crisis is 35 years old, and was started as part of the international Rape Crisis movement. It continues to be politically revolutionary in that the organisational values explicitly state that women are at the centre of their practice*, and a feminist analysis of rape and sexual abuse underpins all their work. Not only do they provide frontline services, but they advocate politically for women’s rights to autonomy and self-determination over their own bodies. If this seems like nothing special, or if you’re of the opinion that we’ve already achieved these things, then you might want to do some serious reading.

Let’s be clear about these “vital” services. All too often, WRC staff are the difference between life and death for their clients, both metaphorically and literally. WRC provides clients with tools and support to work through trauma, and helps provide survivor’s loved ones with the strength and knowledge to confidently stand by them. Staff can help with housing issues, medical referrals, access to funding for study or training, childcare and much more. The organisation recognises that rape and sexual abuse affects every part of a person’s life, and works holistically within this.

Read the rest of this blog piece here

Marriage Equality: “not exactly the biggest issue of the day”

6 Aug

Women getting marriedEveryone seems to be talking about marriage equality at the moment. From Obama to a New South Wales Anglican Vicar who recently put up a sign outside his church advocating for it. This Vicar suggested that it was time that society discuss the issue. So it’s pretty interesting that New Zealand is currently engaging in just such a debate. Labour MP, Louisa Wall’s “marriage equality” bill, was recently pulled out of the ballot for a conscience vote which may take place as early as late August.

For some people the issue seems like a no-brainer. Marriage equality, specifically widening the definition of marriage to include same sex couples is in line with United Nations mandates about equality under law for all people regardless of gender, sexuality, religion etc. However ‘marriage’ is a pretty loaded term and means different things to different people. Some people argue that marriage – as both a relation and state institution should only apply to a specific gendered configuration – often drawing on religious ideas about a sacred union between a man and a woman. Opponents of marriage equality appear to be arguing that marriage needs to be respected as a cultural tradition and to change the current rules would risk damaging the nuclear family and the ‘children may suffer’. But let’s not be naive here, marriage may traditionally have been about the union of a man and a woman but it has also been used to build nations, avoid wars, a way to gain financial security, escape poverty and do a bit of social climbing. While it might be about love for some people and having children, for many it is about more pragmatic and mundane concerns like visas, next of kin rights, keeping food on the table and protecting financial assets. Continue reading

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