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27. June 2014


How we grew timebanking in rural Scotland: The Argyll and Bute Timebanks

One day in 2005 a woman called Verity walked into the Volunteer Centre in Argyll and Bute where I was employed as a development worker at the time. She was new to the area, keen to make new friends and join in with community activity. She wanted to know if we had a Timebank. Having never heard of this concept, my colleagues and I looked into it. We learnt that “Timebanking is a means of exchange, where time is the principal currency.” The basic principle is “an hour for an hour.” We also found out about Timebanking UK which provides a lot of resources and support to people who want to set up a Timebank. We decided to give it a go, as it seemed to add something extra to the traditional volunteering opportunities already available in the area and nationally. It gave people a way to join in who may feel excluded from volunteering – an easy way to get involved, whether busy with work, a single parent, or just out of prison. It also has increased flexibility – so organisations can have one-off help at events, or a small group can get professional help such as designing a leaflet. It also has more flexibility for individuals – they are under no pressure to do something if they’re busy with visitors or heading off on holiday.

We did get some start-up funding from Big Lottery and other funders, which was used to pay for development staff across our large geographical area. We also had help from established Timebanks in the country with paperwork, and training from TBUK on how to use the Timebank system. Timebanks also need some finances for covering internet and phone usage and volunteer expenses. In the day-to-day running of the Timebank itself, though, no money changes hands, except to make sure that fellow Timebankers are not out of pocket, for example a member will cover another member’s bus fare if they are travelling to come and help them in the garden. Some Timebanks have insurance to cover exchanges, but not all. The Volunteer Centre is now Argyll Voluntary Action which is part of the Third Sector Interface, but the Timebank continues.

We have worked in a variety of ways – finding that what works best is a team of volunteers in each neighbourhood, rather than a member of staff covering the whole area. Argyll and Bute is a large geographical area, with 80,000 residents located in small towns, remote rural areas and twenty-five inhabited islands. We have set up seven Timebanks across the area, each operating differently, as works best for them, but each linked together in one system. So an exchange can happen locally, or with another Timebank in the area, if need be. Currently in Cowal, we have five volunteers working as time brokers, supported by various members of staff, who all work on different projects, including Reshaping Care for Older People which is a Scottish Government initiative aimed at improving services for older people by shifting care towards anticipatory care and prevention.

In order to gain Timebank members we held large events, but found that word of mouth works best – as soon as someone finds out that they could get their ironing done they will want to join! Our Timebank has grown from its humble start in 2005 to currently 1406 members across Argyll, across seven Timebanks all linked together. We have 235 in our small town. We have a wide range of people – employed, unemployed, various ethnic groups; the youngest member is nine, and many are aged over ninety (we don’t always get people’s actual age!). The highest proportion of people is aged between fifty and sixty, although all age groups are fairly evenly represented.

A Timebank works like a bank – people can spend their hours as fast as they earn them, save them for a rainy day, or donate them. One member recently donated hours to a friend as a birthday gift, and another donates regularly to local groups. It is rare to encounter issues. Some people slip into ‘overdraft’ but most people like to earn their hours before spending them - the bigger ‘problem’ is encouraging people who want to earn and not spend to ask for help so the system doesn’t grind to a halt. We also say to members to think how good they would be making someone else feel if they get to help!

We have many exchanges, including grass-cutting, picking up shopping or doing an internet search. Some activities are more creative – guitar lessons, advice on pruning apple trees or publishing a book. This month we have organised Polish/English translation, shortening trousers, cleaning kitchen cupboards, hoovering and changing bedding, amongst other things. The bedding is a regular exchange that two teenage girls take turns to do for an eighty year old lady who would like to stay independent, but struggles with some housework. She earns hours by making shortbread for local events, and writing certificates for a youth organisation (she has beautiful hand-writing) and for giving cookery advice. The teenagers have received help with school projects and homework. The Timebank also works well for people busy with work, volunteering, caring or parenting – they can earn credits when they can – for example, through their voluntary work, by picking up shopping while out doing their own, or by doing internet searches during leisure hours. In exchange they may get their garden tended to, child-care, or someone to wait at the house for a parcel delivery.

Are you already thinking of how a local Timebank might help you? So, while you imagine getting a huge pile of ironing done, I will answer some typical questions.

Are you already busy and can’t imagine fitting it in? Our Timebrokers will discuss with you what you can contribute to the Timebank and when and how often to do it. You can opt in and out of the system, so it can be arranged that you only get asked for week-end matches, or during your annual leave. You will be one of many people who are offering the same thing, so if a Timebroker calls and you can’t do it, they will just move on to the next person on the list. No pressure.

What about letting someone into my home that I don’t know? We can arrange to send two people, maybe one of them being someone you have already met. We also arrange regular drop-ins and get-togethers so that Timebank members can get to know one another. We get to know time bank members ourselves, and use our judgment about whether people will get on, or arrange for exchanges to happen outside the home if possible.

How do I know if someone is reliable? We collect references that ask about someone’s honesty, team-working, punctuality and their ability to get on with others. It gives us a good starting point. We never turn anyone away, but we won’t match someone to get you to a hospital appointment if they don’t seem too reliable. In some cases, we do require a PVG check, but can only do these in respect of regular matches such as a person offering tutoring to a school child. As with all volunteering opportunities, it is free to get the check done.

Will it cost me anything? If you want your kitchen painted, you will buy all the materials needed, but we can share tools and equipment between us all. If travel is necessary, we arrange a set amount before the exchange happens to cover costs. All members sign an agreement - not to ask for or accept any gifts or money, not to use someone’s phone without agreement, and to treat one another with respect.  

The best part about Timebanks is their equality – everyone can both give and receive help, and everyone’s time is worth the same, whether they plumbing or picking up a prescription. For some people being asked to help, when they have traditionally just been receiving services is transformational. For example, one of our Timebank members has learning disabilities, earns credits by photocopying, and gets help with ordering online, and doing searches about holiday destinations.

A lot of what I have mentioned has been about individuals but our Timebank also includes local voluntary groups, and businesses. As I type we are just heading off to one of our local cafes, which accepts Time Credits for teas and coffees, and then spends them on getting their windows cleaned and help with publicity…

You can find out more in our Co-Production Case Study published by the Joint Improvement Team. If you need further information simply get in touch with Timebanks UK - through them you can also get expert help in setting up a Timebank in your area. Or contact me at or on 01369 700100.  Get Timebanking!

Michaela Goan

Argyll Voluntary Action



PRESENT in East Dunbartonshire: Co-production as default, working with people affected by dementia

The G8 Dementia Summit in London in December 2013 has raised awareness of the dementia challenge and the need to take action. In fact, East Dunbartonshire (with about 100,000 inhabitants) to the north of Glasgow had already started to deal with the dementia challenge in 2010.

East Dunbartonshire is the Scottish local authority with the highest proportion of older people. Some 21% of the local population are over 60 years old, and this is rising sharply; moreover, the population aged over 75 years is set to increase by 71% by 2024. There are currently an estimated 2,020 people living with dementia in East Dunbartonshire. 

Faced with two huge costs - the human cost and the budget costs - we all must find better solutions to the dementia challenge.

We believe that co-production must be part of the answer. This is what PRESENT is about. East Dunbartonshire Council, the Joint Improvement Team and Governance International have embarked on a co-production journey to transform public services and local communities through co-production as default, when working with people affected by dementia.

What is co-production? It’s about public services and citizens working together to harness each other’s expertise, skills and resources. For us, driving improvements in health and social care and promoting dementia-friendly communities are not separate issues. Co-production provides an approach for public services and local communities to do it together!

And what will be co-produced? That’s simple – better personal and social outcomes for people with dementia and for all those people who care for and about them, including front-line staff, managers and commissioners.

And why? Just look at the change in demographics and the declining public resources– what we need is not more of the ‘same’ social services but rather more caring communities. As Councillor Michael O'Donnell, Convenor of the Social Work Committee of East Dunbartonshire Council has suggested, "Co-producing dementia friendly communities offers more effective ways of combining public resources with the assets of citizens and wider communities to improve social and personal outcomes for people affected by dementia."

So, we invite you to be PRESENT in our Workshop at the National Co-Production Conference in Edinburgh on 23 April to learn how public services and local communities can give people affected by dementia a presence and enable them to improve their own outcomes and make a full contribution to their communities.

Participants attending this workshop will get a taster session of our Dementia Co-Production Star.

This toolkit, which is being developed by Governance International, East Dunbartonshire Council and the Joint Improvement Team, helps you to improve:

  1. Changing personal relationships within households and families;
  2. Connectedness to local community networks;
  3. Co-production at an organisational level to work in more enabling ways with people affected by dementia

Representatives from East Dunbartonshire Council, local partners and people affected by dementia will tell you about achievements so far and ambitions for the future - and they will also ask you to share your experiences that we can all learn from. 

PRESENT is supported by people with dementia, carers, CHP, Alzheimer Scotland, Ceartas (advocacy), Carers Link and a National Reference Group, including representatives of Alzheimer Scotland, IRISS, the Social Value Lab and Talking Mats.


We are looking forward to meeting you in Edinburgh on 23 April or hearing from you.

Contact Us!

Julie Christie, email: 
Paula Brown, email:
Gerry Power, email:
Elke Loeffler, email:



Co-production Around the World

The Co-Production Journey in Scotland

This new blog series highlights the current state of play of user and community co-production in public services. We will tell you who the movers and shakers are, identify cutting-edge innovations and showcase international best practice for your organisation to learn from. Join the debate and add your comments! This blog will be visiting your country soon...

© Nize Nicolai Schäfer

Like many other European countries, Scotland faces a significant increase in service demand during a time of demographic change and sustained decline in financial resources. In response the Scottish government has developed policies which specifically promote and fund co-production approaches in public services. 

Sir Harry Burns, Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, has been highly influential in promoting this direction of travel through his championing of an assets-based approach to planning and delivering health and wellbeing. His vision was reinforced by the publication of the Christie Commission Report on the Future of Delivery of Public Services in June 2011. This highly influential report argues that it is ensure that our public services are built around people and communities, their needs, aspirations, capacities and skills, and work to build up their authority and resilience.

The Scottish Government has recognised this challenge and together with the Confederation of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA) and other stakeholders, has developed a 10 year change programme for Reshaping Care for Older People, which promotes the development of co-production and community capacity building as key elements of public service transformation. Most importantly, the Scottish Government has invested to support the transformational change required by creating a four year older people's services Change Fund of £300 million in order to drive the necessary shift in service models and organisational cultures. Government funding has also been made available to adopt co-production approaches to deal with specific issues such as teenage pregnancies (e.g. through the Family-Nurse-Partnership Programme) and the limited access for older people to healthy food and supportive social networks (e.g. through the Food Train). 

Nicola Sturgeon, then Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing and Cities Strategy with a client of the FNP programme.

On an operational level, the Joint Improvement Team (JIT), which is co-sponsored by the Scottish Government, CoSLA and NHS Scotland, working in strategic partnership with the Third and Independent sectors, provides support to 32 locally based partnerships across Scotland (including NHS, council, third and independent sector organisations) to integrate co-production as an approach within health and social care. This work has been led by the two National Co-Production and Community Capacity Leads  Gerry Power and Andrew Jackson working with geographically based JIT Associates. Activity to date has included: 

  • Awareness raising activities, such as the first Co-Production and Community Capacity-Building Conference in Dunfermline in January 2011, which was attended by more than 300 participants. 
  • Providing case study evidence that co-production works including the publication with Governance International of Co-production in Health and Social Care: What it is and how to do it, and the building of management and front-line staff capacity across local councils, the NHS, independent and voluntary sectors by rolling out training based on the Governance International Co-Production Star.
  • Gathering good practice case studies from all of the 32 local partnerships in Scotland.
  • Strengthening networking and the exchange of experiences through the Scottish Co-Production Network.

The change management strategy of JIT is showing signs of success as a number of councils have already started to take action to roll out co-production across their services. For example, Midlothian Council have adopted a Council wide approach to co-production enabling all council services in the county to make effective use of the Governance International Co-Production Toolkit. In addition JIT has provided coaching to assist the implement of action plans being drawn up by participants in the co-production training sessions. This process has uncovered good examples of co-productive practice already taking place in the Council which are being used as drivers to convince more colleagues to adopt this way of working and promote culture change.

Co-production is also being rolled out in other public services in Scotland. For example, Strathclyde Police and the national Violence Reduction Unit have been leading an assets-based approach in a highly deprived area in North West Kilmarnock, which was previously characterised by high crime rates. The project uncovered enormous reserves of creativity and energy in the community, which have helped to turn around the quality of life of local people in the area. The lesson which Chief Inspector Tony Bone took away from his involvement with this project was: You don't know what you need in a community until you know what you already have.

In other organisations, however, full buy-in remains to be achieved and work continues to demonstrate the value of this approach in delivering better outcomes and/or efficiency savings. For example JIT is currently working with a number of partnerships on Contribution Analysis to develop an evidence base which can demonstrate the economic utility of co-production and community capacity building as well as their impact on personal outcomes. It is recognised that embedding co-production and community capacity building in organisations and services will require whole systems change which spans commissioning of public services through to organisational and individual performance improvement. One example of how this might be achieved in future is by recognising the capacity and capability of front-line staff to co-produce with users and communities in organisational competency and performance management frameworks. This will support the principle of co-production by emphasising it is more rewarding for the service user, the professional and the provider organisation to solve problems together and not simply do things to and for service users.

I am delighted to announce that Co-Production of Health and Wellbeing in Scotland, the second booklet on co-production and community capacity building in Scotland, produced in association with Governance International and other partners, will be launched by Mr Alex Neil, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, at the National Co-Production and Community Capacity-Building Conference on 20 February 2013 in Edinburgh. This publication includes updated and new chapters covering the background to co-production, case studies and good practice from within Scotland and from our learning partners in Sweden. This I hope will help to demonstrate the great strides that have already taken place in making co-production and community capacity building a key part of the strategy and the practice of public services in Scotland and encourage you further to making these approaches central to the way you plan and deliver services.



This guest blog has been written by Dr Margaret Whoriskey.

Director, Joint Improvement Team


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