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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

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

Workplace culture

15 Jul

Recently, over a dinner with some friends, we entered into a discussion about workplace culture in NZ. These discussions stemmed from an article that was written by Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former US State Department official and Princeton Professor titled ‘Why women still can’t have it all’. The article told her story and experience of attempting to have a high-powered career and be a mother and wife. She claimed that this was an impossible task. The article caused a stir in the feminist world. An interesting perspective can be found in a response titled ‘Feminism didn’t lie to women about “having it all’. They criticise the way that she claims women to be ‘naturally’ more family oriented than men and her narrow definition of “having it all” – being a having a career and a family and that there is an underlying assumption that this is something that men have and women don’t.

In saying all of that, I am not writing this to get into debates about what feminism looks like today. What I would like to discuss is the conversations that were spurred around the dinner table as a result. In considering the current workplace culture in NZ, we decided that there are issues that impact both men and women alike and as a result the wellbeing of people in their jobs. Continue reading

‘The Help’ in Togo

3 Jul

Marianne from elevenhoursahead has written a post about the ethics of living and working in Togo on our sister blog elevenhoursabroad. It starts like this…

“I was talking to my Dad on skype the other day and he asked me how my maid was. It was a question that felt strange and unnerving to me as I became confronted with an image of myself that I was uncomfortable with; that of the expat ‘development’ worker who hires a local (Togolese in this instance) maid.

I bring up my own involvement as an employer in the domestic service industry not as a well-paid development consultant, or even as an averagely-paid development assistant but rather as a barely-paid intern. The cost of labor is sufficiently low here that even while paying Esther[2] well above the minimum wage, on my meager wages I am easily able to afford this service. I am able to have a kind of lifestyle I would not be able to have ‘back home’. This troubles me.”

The full post can be read here.

Well-articulated rant #5

22 Jun

This week, ElevenHoursAhead will be publishing the thoughts of current and former students on the real value of the student allowance system. Here is the last personal reflection from Amanda Thomas:

Some friends of mine once jokingly typified me as being from the school of hard knocks. Comparatively I’m not really. My parents separated when I was eleven and for a while my mum (who was working six nights a week as a nurse), two brothers and I lived on mince on toast (the main reason mince now makes me want to hurl). Yep, we were povo, but by the time I was leaving school for university, my family fell into that awkward gap of “no, your family’s not poor enough for the student allowance but not well off enough to help you financially”. So I paid for my undergraduate and honours degrees with a student loan, and waited until I was almost 20 before I went flatting, knowing that getting living costs ($160 per week at that time) on my loan as well as fees was going to make it balloon.

Continue reading

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