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)

Hannagarden1

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

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