What is Timebanking about and why should I care?

Timebanking is a way of connecting people to exchange services by trading time instead of money. Everyone’s hour is equal, and everyone has something to give, as the goal is to build a community based on reciprocity, where members help each other out.

If you like to volunteer, Timebanking is a way to get something back in exchange for your time. If you need help, the Timebank can be a place to go to find support. If you would like to meet new people, learn something new, or share a skill, Timebanking can connect you to others who are looking for the same thing.

I’ve never heard of this, has it worked in other places before? 

Dr. Edgar Cahn, a lawyer working for social justice, created timebanking in 1980 to empower disenfranchised communities. The nonprofit he founded in 1996, Timebanks USA, now has over 300 registered Timebanks. They have been used successfully to provide care for the elderly, educate children, and revitalize neighborhoods. The Hour Exchange Portland is a large, successful timebank in Portland, Maine that has provided us with free software and mentoring. Another thriving timebank in Media, PA has helped us plan and set up this organization. There are timebanks in Walnut Hill, Germantown, and Phoenixville, PA.

Internationally, active Timebanks exist in 26 countries. In the UK, there are around 250, and Timebanks in Greece are experiencing rapid growth as bartering for goods and services has begun to replace currency in the aftermath of the economic crisis.

Why here at Penn?

Timebanking is a great way to meet new people, practice your skills, and get support when you need it. It also allows you to try new things without committing to joining a club or paying for lessons. All of these are things we have wanted to do in college, so we decided to create a timebank as a student group to help us make these collaborations happen. Cornell has Ithaca Hours, Philadelphia has Equal Dollars, and now Penn has a TimeBank. We are excited by how alternative currencies can strengthen communities and improve lives, and can’t wait to see how this plays out.

I’m already short on time, won’t this just be another commitment I can’t afford to make?

As a member, you can be as much or as little involved as you want. Many of the services people offer through Timebanking are things they would be doing anyways, for fun, to help out a friend, or to practice a skill. Timebanking helps you gain extra time because down the road, you can spend the Hours you’ve earned and have someone else do something for you that you can’t fit into your schedule or simply don’t know how to do!

Who can join, and will it cost me? 

Students, graduate students, and faculty can join the network by registering with their “upenn.edu” email address.

It is absolutely free to join and use, as the Hour Exchange Portland has provided us with free software and training, and the Kelly Writer’s House has provided us with funding for any additional expenses.

How do I keep track of hours? 

You can log your hours and search for services online using hOurworld online software. Accessing our online software is simple and easy and will be covered in member orientations. You can also view a tutorial on YouTube made by the Hour Exchange Portland, or check out this Software Guide.

Can people cheat?

Whenever one person earns an Hour, there is a corresponding debit for the same amount in someone else’s account, and both parties are notified that a transaction has been recorded. This makes it easy to know if someone is cheating or not.

Hoarding Hours serves no purpose anyways, since there is no penalty for having a negative balance (up to a certain point when your account switches to a mode where you can only earn), and you can only spend them an hour at a time.

Most importantly, this is a community built on the principle of reciprocity. No one is anonymous, so reputations are linked to good references and positive feedback.



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