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Click logo to read case on Time2Trade time bank

Timebanks allow people to share skills using time as the currency of exchange.

Timebanking UK explain how they operate: ‘Participants “deposit” their time in the bank by giving practical help and support to others and are able to “withdraw” their time when they need something done themselves. Time banks measure and value all the different kinds of help and skills people can offer each other. In a time bank, everyone becomes both a giver and a receiver. Everyone's time is valued equally : One hour = 1 time credit.’

Martin Simon of Timebanking UK outlines the mechanics of timebanking in his recent book 'Your money or your life: time for both'. 

The New Economics Foundation has emphasised the link between timebanking and co-production, building on the work of Edgar Cahn in the United States. Cahn argues that what he calls co-production 1.0 (i.e. people producing services in place of the state) led to free-riders, burnout and bureaucratic resistance.

Co-production 2.0, based on timebaking, avoids these problems with its credit system which encourages reciprocity, and values what Cahn calls ‘real work’. As he puts it, ‘Time Banking supplied a form of empowerment. It changed citizens from passive consumer to active co-producers who have earned the status of stakeholder.’ Cahn describes how, ‘In Chicago, Albany and Lynn, disadvantaged youth have earned Time Dollars tutoring younger students; They have cashed the Time Dollars in for recycled computers – but the real breakthroughs have been in test scores, attendance, morale and violence reduction’

Examples of time banks within the UK include the Rushey Green Time Bank and other time banks supported by SLAM (South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust). However, very few timebanking schemes involve real co-production in the sense of collaboration between professionals working in the public sector and citizens. Most time bank strongly focus on community self-help, with citizens doing things for each other. While this is important and useful, it also needs to be recognised that timebanks could be a lot more effective, at least for some of their members, if they could integrate public services. For example, GPs might refer patients who feel isolated and suffer from depression to a timebank instead of prescribing anti-depressants, where there is clear evidence that the cause of this person’s condition is basically social. This is indeed the approach of one of the few time banks which works closely with public services, Time 2 Trade in West Bromwich near Birmingham. This time bank is not only fully funded by Sandwell PCT but NHS staff are also involved in its activities. This video from BBC Midlands Today of the Time 2 Trade timebank in West Bromwich gives a good outline how this timebank works.

Evaluation of time banks has found that they deliver a range of benefits. Evaluation of the time bank based at the Rushey Green GP surgery found that there appeared to be physical and psychological health benefits for participants, although they did note that it was difficult to link time bank participation directly to those benefits. Time banks appear to be more effective than traditional volunteering routes at attracting socially excluded sectors of the population and work well as a tool for social inclusion. An evaluation of a number of time banks by Seyfang (2003) concluded, ‘By promoting mutual volunteering, they generate trust, social capital, reciprocity and community self-help among people who would normally be passive recipients of external assistance’ (2003, p.703).

The most recent research into the economic benefits of time banks  demonstrates that

“Time banks, which use hours of time rather than pounds as a community currency, cost £450 per member per year, but can provide savings of more than £1300 per member over the same period. Participants contribute their own skill, practical help or resources in return for services provided by fellow time bank members.”

Martin Knapp, London School of Economics: Building Community Capacity: Making an Economic Case

In this video below Edgar Cahn explains the concept of Time Banking



Climb back into the tree....





Boyle, D. et al. (2004), For the sake of a nail: co-production, time banks and mutual volunteering for DIY and small repairs. London, new economics foundation.

Cahn, E. S. (2006), Priceless Money: Banking Time for Changing Times. Washington, D.C, Time Banks USA.

Governance International: "‘Time2Trade' for the 'time rich and cash poor'" case study

Reed, Z. (2008), ‘Coproduction, time banks and mental health’, A Life in the Day, 12, 1.

Seyfang, G. (2003), "'With a little help from my friends.' Evaluating time banks as a tool for community self-help." Local Economy 18(3): 257-263.

Simon, M. (2011), Your Money or Your Life: Time for Both, Freedom Favours, London.

Smith, K. (2005), Yes we can: A practical guide to timebanking, London: Timebanks UK.


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