Time Banking Comes to Collingswood
A combination of bartering and volunteerism, Time Banking is a concept for which Collingswood is well suited, says Kim Fusco, who's organizing an interest session Thursday.
Any long-term job-seeker can tell you: Along with your ability to earn money, the first thing that goes out the window is your sense of self worth.
In a down economy, there's a lot of that going around.
Job-seekers will also tell you that their ability to work or to produce value is not tied to their ability to earn a paycheck from it. Just because the employer goes away, the skill set doesn't.
So what if there were an alternative economic arrangement that didn't hinge on the dollar-for-labor exchange? What if there were a way to organize a barter system that allowed more people at the extremes of the system to participate?
'We are all assets'
That's exactly the principle behind time banking, a concept that's been around since the mid-1990s, and which debuts in Collingswood at a Thursday night info session at the public library.
From the website of Time Banks USA, the core values of the concept are:
- We are all assets.
- We all have something to give.
- Some work is beyond price.
- Helping works better as a two-way street.
- We need each other.
- Every human being matters.
"Work has to be redefined to value whatever it takes to raise healthy children, build strong families, revitalize neighborhoods, make democracy work, advance social justice, make the planet sustainable," the site posits. "That kind of work needs to be honored, recorded and rewarded.
"The question: 'How can I help you?' needs to change so we ask: 'How can we help each other build the world we both will live in?'”
'A common purpose, a common mind'
Collingswood resident Kim Fusco, who's organizing the Time Banking event, confesses that she's not entirely familiar with the nuts and bolts of the idea. But she believes it's something that could easily and quickly take deep roots in the borough.
"It’s very successful in certain areas, and it does a lot to bring in economic growth," Fusco said. "The problem with this idea is that it takes a lot of stirring and spinning" before it takes hold, she said.
One of the most successful time banks in the nation is across the river, in (relatively) nearby Phoenixville, PA, Fusco said. Sometimes it thrives in a small group, she said—a mom’s group, a bike share, a green program. But truly, it grows "out of a group of people with a common interest, a common purpose, a common mind."
"You can put it down simply as people listing their skills, kind of like Craigslist," Fusco said. "Wanted: help with my yard, buying groceries for an elderly man, help with my taxes. It really gets people out and meeting each other in the community."
The "banking" concept is really a structural overlay that allows individuals to establish a common share of their workload: one hour in means you have one hour to request of someone else. Negative currency isn't a problem, Fusco said, because "It’s actually harder to get people to take favors than to give favors; it doesn’t work unless people are takers as well.
"Nobody’s going to come after you if you go into negative," she said.
At its simplest level, Fusco said, people are turning dormant resources into something they can use; an empty physical space that could house a meeting group, for example. But the other thing the system does, she said, is help engage folks who are on the sidelines of the system, so to speak.
"I do it with my neighbors, Chris and Mary, and we’ll spend three hours on a Saturday [working] in her house, and hours in my house," Fusco said. "We are constantly doing this sort of favor back and forth, and I love it. I love living in Collingswood. I enjoy that they lean on me."
For more information on Time Banking, visit Time Banks USA